Five Kings - v1c1 part 4

Hisoku the Star Seer

THE striking blue imprint looked awfully creepy.

"It's a tincture, a sign that you belong to the king. Appears each time you are embraced, but gradually fades away after forty days or so. If another king touches you, it will be considered treason."

I groaned in pain as the Blue King said that and traced the tincture hard to make sure it was there. It tingled like a burn.

"A person who has lost their mark is called a 'white woman', and is free to be touched by anyone. If you don't want to be embraced by just anyone, then act like a real star seer."

"Star seer...?"

I couldn't believe my ears at the unexpected words and let out a muffled cry.

The blue king sat on his bed, face flickering from the firelights in the four corners of the room.

"From now on, you will call yourself a Hoshimi and live as the blue seer Hisoku. No one in the palace knows that the real Hisoku is a girl. As long as you try hard, anything is possible."

"As Hisoku?"

"Yes. As in your sister's name."

"You see... Shah, I'm not as good as my sister. I can't pretend to be a star seer when I don't know what's ahead and I can't see the things in the future."

"It's not a question of whether you can do it or not, you have to go through with it to save your sister's life. You told me earlier that if you could save your sister, even death would not be scary. It's your duty to fulfill that oath."

"If I do, will my sister be spared?"

The Blue King smiled scornfully.

"I don't like that sarcastic tone. Remember, it is you who will suffer the pain of offending me. I'll come back and embrace you before the sign disappears, so be prepared for that."

With that, the Blue King called out to his attendant, who was waiting in the corner of the room, and went to take a bath.

The muscles on the man's back stood out with its taut, fibrous stripes. "I'll be Hisoku," I murmured, as I followed his back with my eyes.

My sister, so young and pretty, always called me "Sage" in her sweet voice. I closed my eyes and pulled the blanket up to my head.

I was awakened by a shake. Cyan was ordering the attendant to change my clothes.

"I can do it myself."

I mustered up the strength to sit up. The sticky mess had been wiped away, but it still felt awkward to be seen naked. I couldn't tell what she was thinking from her blank expression, but I did notice that she was looking at the tincture on my chest.

The attendant brought in the finest clothes I had ever seen, and I was  at a loss on how to put them on.

As I fumbled to tie the strap, the attendant came to assist me prudently. She made me put on a thick, embroidered coat. On both wrists, I wore large bangles studded with blue stones.

I stole a glance at Cyan, expecting him to say, "You said you'd do it yourself."

He was wearing a long-sleeved dress with a jeweled belt around his waist. He was expressionless, without a hint of frivolity, but the gorgeous outfit suited him well.

"What is it?"

"You will go to the Fountain with me. Try not to say anything unnecessary."

"The Fountain?"

The word was unfamiliar to me.

"It's the judicial branch of this country. It's where the trials are held. We'll discuss the murder of Lord Green. You're a witness."

"Will Shah be punished for killing Lord Green?"

Cyan looked at me. He seemed to be at least ten years older than me, but when I saw his cold, well-formed face, I thought he might be much older.

His stare was as intimidating as the Blue King.

"They who have a feather tincture are said to be the king's woman. If you mess with another king's woman, you will be severely punished, regardless of whether you are the Green King or not. The Fountain will only conduct a formal interrogation."

"Are you saying that if I have this mark, I'll be fine?"


"So that's why Shah had me?"

"Be careful to call yourself 'I' at the Fountain," Cyan said as if my question did not exist.

I walked down the corridor a little behind Cyan, but because of my sloppy clothes, I felt like I was going to be left behind by his walking speed.

I wondered if he heard my jumbled footsteps because Cyan seemed to slow down just a little. He didn't make it obvious that he was slowing down, so I didn't thank him, thinking it might have been my imagination.

The carriage parked in the garden of the Blue Palace was far nicer than the one I had ridden in when I was brought here. The horse's face was covered with a cloth with two cuts on the eyes, and the same pattern as my tincture on its forehead. The back of the cart was not covered with cloth, all four sides were covered with wooden walls instead. The chairs inside had a backrest covered with a thick sheet, like a bed.

Cyan sat across from me. He didn't make eye contact with me and didn't seem to want to talk. The air was awfully heavy in the quiet carriage.

As the carriage started to move. I was able to look out the window.

We passed through the main gate of the royal palace, then through the square. The brick houses lining both sides of the main street were neat and orderly, different from the sooty streets of the west.

The stalls selling vegetables and the baskets of rare flowers were so dazzling that I was lost for words.

I stared at the scenery, sticking to the window.

As the carriage slowly moved forward, people cleared the road, stopped their business, and bowed their heads. My eyes focused on a small child through the window. He bowed as if he was being pushed by his parents―which made me feel sorry for him―so I sat up straighter in my chair.

As if he could see through my desire to walk around the city, without looking at me, Cyan said, "You are not allowed to go outside the palace unless there are circumstances like today. Keep that in mind."

"Yes," I answered in a small voice.

I felt awkward that he would be quiet again, so I called out to him.

"Why did you say that a star seer would spark a fire in the royal court?"

When Cyan didn't answer, I went stiff as I felt nervous. It might have been better if I kept my mouth shut, but it was too late.

"I heard many star seers were living in the royal palace before I came. Are there other star seers besides me now?"

"You are not a star seer."

"Yes, I am."

I shuddered.

Cyan didn't like the fact that I'm not a seer and I called myself a Hoshimi. Or maybe it was not about the fact that I was not a star seer, but because he just didn't like me.

"I asked about why a star seer will spark a fire in the royal court."

His face didn't change much, but I could see a subtle look of hesitation on his face.

"Several reasons. In the past, it was common for kings to hire seers. Many kings used them, not for the good of the kingdom, but for themselves. Some kings casted spells on rival kings, and other kings were obsessed with the study of immortality."

"Immortality? Is there a seer who can do that?"

I had never heard of anyone other than Hisoku with such strange abilities, so I was honestly amazed.

Cyan looked at me, furrowing his brow.

"If that's possible, you wouldn't be here."

"Isn't there a way to find out if a seer's abilities are real?"

"Only fellow seers who can measure their abilities. Could you believe that?"

"Oh, I see... I see."

"It doesn't matter if their ability is real or not. The reason why I call the seer bad luck is because many of them have messed with kings. Once they gained the king's trust, many of them would try to manipulate them with shady oracles to control the affairs of state."

Cyan took a breath.

"And if their abilities are 'real', that's even more troublesome. There's a competition for the best seer. Other kings will watch over them and try to seduce them. And if they don't fall for them, the kings would try to assassinate the seer, fearing that another king would become powerful. No matter what happens, star seers will only bring misfortunes to the palace."

I was horrified by the story, imagining if Hisoku followed me all the way here.

"There are actually several other seers outside the Blue Palace. However, Hisoku Hoshimi is the most famous rumored seer in the palace. The Black King, Lord Sable, is particularly into seers. Be very careful with him."

With that, Cyan fell silent, so did the carriage.

❍ ❍ ❍

A few days passed, and it turned out that Cyan was right.

The Green King's death was ruled out as a consequence of meddling with the Blue King's property. From then, I had been busy nursing Ruri, asking the Blue King for help.

There was not much I could do except to prepare more water and help the apothecary apply ointment to her wounds, spending the whole day by her side.

When Ruri woke up and saw me by her side, she smiled and said, "I'm glad you're okay," which made me want to do whatever I could to help her.

There was an infirmary in the palace, but Ruri was kept in a well-ventilated room. When the sun was up, a cool breeze blew in―despite the heat of the day, but Ruri's appetite was weak due to  anemia.

I asked the kitchen to prepare food that she could easily swallow. But even after a long time, the meal did not arrive, so I decided to go to the kitchen myself.

As I walked through the palace, I passed by many people. The attendants seemed to know that I was a star seer. They would stop and bow, and wait for me to pass by―it made me feel a little uncomfortable.

On the way, I came across a well-kept flower garden. I decided to pick some of the pale, red flowers  to give them to Ruri as a souvenir; feeling that a beautiful flower would look good in that drab room; or that if I make it into a flower headband, it would look good with Ruri's golden hair. I remembered how I used to make a flower headband for Hisoku.

"Oh, right."

I thought of a good idea and hurried to the kitchen. The kitchen, built outside the palace, was in a flurry of activity, preparing a huge meal.

"Excuse me, Miss Ruri's food hasn't arrived yet..."

An old cook turned around and glared at me as if to say, "Don't bother us here."

However, when his eyes landed on the tincture on my chest, his demeanor changed. Realizing that I wasn't the usual attendant.

"I'll bring it to her now, so please wait in Miss Ruri's room," he said amiably.

But still, the cook soon engrossed himself in processing the bird again.

tl/pr: Greenteaa/Lo_OnyOnion