Five Kings - v1c1 part 7



Hisoku the Star Seer

"Sorry if I provoked you. I was only passing by to embrace another woman tonight. I just intended to visit you briefly so I could see Ruri."

Suddenly, I became livid to the point that I was at a loss for words. I realized that I was the only one feeling the heat.

The Blue King looked at me indifferently.

"Carry a more appropriate book when you go out. Swinging around such a book is tantamount to declaring that you're not a star seer."

The Blue King left and the silence of the night returned. I let out a big, loud sigh.

I picked up the book that had fallen to the floor and carefully inspected it to make sure it wasn't torn.

My hand stopped on a page with the word "Azure" handwritten on it. Next to Gemini, it said "Azure and Argent".


*   *   *


Unlike usual, the atmosphere in the Blue Palace was bustling.

When I was about to enter Ruri's room clutching a tray with breakfast on it, an attendant—whom I had met several times before—held me back.

"Please wait. Shah is inside at the moment."

"You're going to meet Miss Ruri, right? Then, would you mind giving this breakfast to her later?"

"Of course."

Handing over the tray, I turned around without even glancing into Miss Ruri's room.

Even though the palace provided star seers with their own rooms, I had spent most of my time in Ruri's room up until now. I only used my own room for sleeping purposes as it was too spacious and dull.

I laid down on the bedroom floor and spread out some pieces of paper to write on. Ruri advised me to learn how to write so that I could read on my own. I started to write down some words that came to mind: the things around me, food, and names of people.

"Hisoku, Ruri, Cyan, Azure, Argent..."

As far as I knew, there was no one named Argent in the Blue Palace.

For a moment, I wanted to ask the servant in my room but immediately gave up the idea. I was afraid that the question might be offensive in the event that she told Shah and Cyan. It would take more courage to ask them directly.

I sighed.

To change the mood, I decided to draw 12 constellations on one of the papers. I came up with the idea to draw these constellations connected by dots and lines so  they'd look united, rather than being stand-alone.

As I was engrossed in redrawing the stars and changing their positions little by little, a voice called out to me, "Master Hisoku."

I could see Cyan standing in the doorway of the room, a bitter expression evident on his face.

I hastily jumped to my feet, straightened the crumpled ends of my garments, and welcomed him in.

"It's inappropriate for a star seer to lie down like a child, even in his own room. You need to understand your status."

"...I'm sorry."

I nodded. The man in front of me sighed drowsily.

Ever since our visit to the Fountain, Cyan kept calling me "Master" Hisoku. He'd remind me that a star seer had a high status and I felt as though I was being accused of being a fake star seer.

"You made a star map?" Cyan asked, looking at the scattered papers on the floor.

"No, it, um, it doesn't have any significance."

I panicked at the sight of the scribble-like drawing, but Cyan was quick to pick up my paper.

"It's good to draw the constellations in a circle," he said, "but you can add meaning if you note down the direction and time so your drawing can represent the movement of the planets. And if you can read astronomy, you'll be able to foresee the weather."

"Has a circular star map already been made?"

"It's not something you can find everywhere. You should try to figure this out yourself as a learning experience."

"Then would you mind checking the star map when I finish drawing it later?"

"Me?"

"You made a star map in a circle before, didn't you, Mr. Cyan? Isn't that what you meant when you said it wasn't something I can find everywhere?"

He paused briefly. Cyan opened his mouth again, "You're more perceptive than I thought."

"As long as you don't neglect your reading practice, I don't mind checking it when I have the time."

"Yes!"

I was overjoyed with Cyan's promise to teach me. He seemed to know a lot about stars.

"By the way, Shah will momentarily go to the west tomorrow. I will accompany him, so if the tincture on your chest disappears in the meantime, do not leave your room. Many people in the palace are interested in star seers," he insisted, "I'll station a guard in your room."

The blue tincture on my chest had faded a bit. I suddenly felt a little frightened at the idea of what might happen in the palace when the Blue King subsequently left.

"What happened in the west?"

Cyan glanced at me and replied, "A revolt led by the citizens."

"A revolt?"

"The late Green King used to rule the west. There's a lot of poor people in that region. The immense gap between the rich and the poor must have angered them. And the death of the Green King added fuel to the fire of their rage."

I hadn't expected it to be so bad.

"Lord Red was sent to control the west, but he was injured and had to return to the palace. He'll be back at the palace tonight, so we'll wait for him, then set out in the morning."

I gulped.

"Isn't it dangerous for the King to be injured?"

"Lord Red didn't want to subdue the rioters by force, so he tried to persuade them by communication."

"It seemed like the right thing to do?"

Cyan spat, "You're naive. The west has turned into a battlefield. From the start, it would be impossible for the weak Lord Red to control the revolt just with communication."

"Weak?"

"Lord Red rules the richest part of Chevron in the south. Apart from the thriving trade with neighboring countries, people there can control their temperament. The arrival of the southern King only provokes the resentment of people living in the wilderness."


*   *   *


As the sun was setting, I headed for the kitchen. Preparing meals for Ruri had become a daily routine for me.

I didn't know how the cooks got wind of me, but they just looked at me as if I were another creature in their midst. No one dared to speak to me.

Only the first cook I met, who was older than me, gave me a look of pity.

"Princess, why are you doing this kind of menial work?" He asked, concerned.

"Haku, it's not that I've made a fool of myself, I'm just here to cook for Miss Ruri of my own free will," I replied, starting to grind the olives. "I'm used to this."

"Well, you're very good at it. Still, I can't help but feel sorry for a princess like you  doing the same work as us. I can't stand to see you like this."

His tone was more relaxed than when we first met, like a parent worrying over his child.

"There's plenty of olive oil in the cold, dark room, so you don't need to take the time to grind them every day."

"But everyone told me not to use the olive oil in that room since they're too expensive."

"They just don't know how to deal with you, princess."

Haku looked sideways at another cook.

"Oh, but he told me earlier that I could use animal oil. He looked somewhat troubled though."

I laughed. Haku stared at me with a raised eyebrow.

"Anyone would feel sorry seeing you grind olives with such thin arms. Olive and animal oil are no different, but you don't want to use anything else. You're a stubborn and eccentric princess."

"Well, I asked Ruri's doctor about it. He said olives are better for the skin and good for treating weak stomachs, so I want to use it for cooking. It's not a big deal."

Grinding olives was not that big of a deal as long as I could make something that would benefit Ruri.

I poured the liquid into a ceramic bowl and put the lid on. After a while, the water and oil should have separated. I was about to take the ceramic bowl into the cold, dark room when a man rushed into the kitchen. He was a soldier adorned with armor.

"The Red Army and the servants who went to the west have returned. Hurry and prepare meals for a hundred people. Deliver them to the hall as soon as they are ready."

The kitchen, which had just been in a relaxed mood after the evening's preparations, suddenly became boisterous upon the soldier's order.

"Oh my God, shouldn't it be the day after tomorrow? Someone has to go to the station and call the people working the early shift back," Haku shouted, "ah no, most of them have been stationed at the kitchen in the west for tomorrow's banquet. How can we cook for a hundred people?"

There was no food left in the palace. Everything had to be made from scratch.

I took off my bangles—which seemed to be in the way—placed them on the corner of the shelf, then rolled up my sleeves.

"I think I can do the prep work."

"What? Are you sure you don't want to go back to the palace? It will be night soon."

"It's okay, I've finished preparing Miss Ruri's dinner. So, what should I do?"

Haku looked agitated for a while, but then said, "It can't be helped. Please be careful with knives and fire. If anything happens to you, princess, we'll be in trouble."

"I understand."

Under Haku's directions, I began to cut the vegetables immediately.

The large knife was difficult to handle, but once I got used to it, it was no different from a usual knife.

I called out to the man who was starting the fire and tried to help him boil the water, but he didn't like my gestures and turned away.


tl/editor: Greenteaa/Cinder