Five Kings - v1c1 part 8



Hisoku the Star Seer

I had a hard time preparing the vegetables. The kiln was too big and the pot was high. So I had no choice but to drop the cut vegetables into the hot water.

The man, who had turned his face away, glanced at me.

"In this case, it will be faster to boil them in a basket*."

He handed me a small basket made of woven metal wire. The netting was pretty neat.

"You just put the cut vegetables in this and soak them in hot water," he explained, "didn't you know that?"

The man grabbed the handle of the wired basket and dipped it into the pot.

This way, we could hook several baskets in the large pot at once and boil the vegetables without mixing them up. The food could also be served faster using this technique instead of boiling a large amount of one variety of vegetable.

"I'm in charge of the water. You just chop the vegetables," he said reluctantly.

I wonder if he just did this to kick me way from the front of the furnace?

"It's dangerous for you," he continued.

"Alright. Then I'll continue chopping the vegetables, and I'll bring them back to you when I finish."

"Please do."

The man turned around, but I was still impassioned with motivation.

I began to engross myself in chopping vegetables in the order they were to be served. To get the quantity right, I talked to the cooks who were at work. They were confused at first, but quick to understand my intentions and began to call out to me.

The cook who was butchering the meat said that he was short of hands, so I went over to him to help.

Aware of my slightly dirty clothes, I took the robe that I was wearing off.

"Now, if I put the robe on once I go back home, the chamberlains won't notice that the cloth is slightly dirty."

I grinned.

The cook told me to gut the bird and wash it clean. When I handed it back to the cook—who was busy making the stuffing—some people looked bewildered as I dangled the bird's feet in the air.

The finished dishes were then picked up by the servants waiting outside the kitchen, and brought to the hall in rapid succession.

The royal palace was divided into three consecutive buildings. The central building, or the so-called cathedral, was the place where ceremonies and meetings were held. The Blue Palace and Red Palace were in the east wing, while the Black Palace and Purple Palace were in the west wing.

The Blue Palace and the Red Palace were connected by a corridor, with guards stationed at the border. Only authorized servants could pass through.

The various colors of light that shone through the kitchen made me lose track of time. The moon had already set around midnight.

I was washing a pot in the well outside the kitchen when a man in his forties, who was dressed in red, appeared. He was a slender man with long hair and a beard. On one arm, he wore a bracelet imbedded with a red stone.

"Call the cook named Haku," he ordered in a low voice.

I nodded and returned to the kitchen. Haku immediately knew who he was.

Without returning to the well, I silently eavesdropped on the conversation between the two men. Haku listened to the man in red with his head lowered.

The middle-aged man returned to the kitchen with a gloomy look on his face.

"Um, that person told you to prepare food for the sick. Was anyone hurt?"

Haku hastily pulled me over to a place hidden by shadows.

"You were eavesdropping on my conversation with Master Burgundy, weren't you?"

"I'm sorry."

I apologize for deliberately eavesdropping.

"Even if you are a princess, you can't say anything. I don't want this story to spread throughout the palace since Master Burgundy will come back later."

I was reminded of Cyan's story. He said the Red King was injured while he was in the west.

"Is Burgundy an aide to the Red King?" I asked curiously.

Haku sighed.

"You really are an odd one, princess."

I looked down, embarrassed by my bad habit of being inquisitive. However, I didn't close my mouth.

"I can make something if there's actually someone who's sick. Besides, I've already prepared the food for Miss Ruri tomorrow."

"Yeah... it would be very helpful. I admit, your cooking skills are really good, princess."

Haku replied drowsily and sighed again.

I was the first to go back to the kitchen. Haku told me to cook in secret. It was an easy task since I was the type of person who often made food for the sick.

When I started cooking, one of the cooks said, "You don't look tired, young lady."

The cooks were resting after a hectic day at work.

"It's long past midnight. Shouldn't you go back to the palace?"

"I'll be back as soon as I finish this."

They laughed at my excuse. "You've worked hard."

"You're about the same age as my son, but you were taken away when you were still young. The mark on your chest is probably proof that you have the king's grace."

"Old man, it's called a feather tincture. Those who have it are called Blue Princesses and they live in the Harem."

"Why is he here, then?"

"For...some reasons, I'm sure."

Suddenly they were using me as an excuse to quibble. The topic was a little uncomfortable.

"What's your name?"

"My name is Hisoku."

"Hisoku? I feel like I've heard that name before."

The man nodded his head, and one of the others teased, "So that's how you try to get his attention!"

Since Haku didn't come back after I finished preparing the food, I decided to go to the park. It turned out that the middle-aged man was huddled on the stone stairs, lost in thought.

"Haku-san?"

"Oh, princess."

"Lord Red's food has been delivered by the servant. I have to go back now. I'll be back tomorrow."

"Sorry to make you work so late."

"No, I'm glad I could be of some help."

When I was about to turn around, Haku suddenly opened his mouth, "The food is for Lord Gules, as the princess suspected."

"Lord Gules?"

Haku looked up at me, somewhat surprised. 

"He's the Red King," he said. "The Red King... He always treats people like me indiscriminately. As a cook, I couldn't be bothered to ask him, but I've been wondering how his injuries are."

So, was this what made his face turn grim after meeting Master Burgundy earlier?

I walked over to Haku and sat down next to him. Not knowing what to say, I gently put my hand on the middle-aged man's shoulder to comfort him.

Haku looked at me with a pitiful face.

"Could you ask about Lord Gules' condition? Just to see if his injuries are life-threatening or not."

"Eh!? But I've never been to the Red Palace, so who should I ask...?"

Haku exhaled in disappointment.

"I'm sorry."

"Ah, it's not your fault, princess. You've never been to the Red Palace nor do you know who to ask."

"So... you're close to the Red King? You look so worried."

"Lord Gules came to this palace by himself when he was just a child. He used to try to sneak back home but he'd get lost in the palace. Of course, it made Master Burgundy mad. He didn't want to be chastised, so he would hide in the kitchen."

Haku smiled a little, "That's why he doesn't look like a King... It never occurred to me that he would put himself in danger for the sake of our country."

The man looked like a parent worrying about his child.

"Speaking of this," he continued,still wishing to verify the Red King's condition. "Lord Gules praised you. He said you're a very smart boy and skillful at making delicious food."

"Me?"

"You didn't notice, did you? That was the first time you came to the kitchen. After you left, Lord Gules was very pleased with your ice cream; he said it was very tasty."

Haku said in a funny manner.

"Master Hisoku!"

A loud voice called out to me.

As the blue-clad maids rushed toward the garden, I sensed a disturbance.

I stood up, feeling uneasy.

"Master Hisoku, you came to this place? Please hurry. Shah is waiting for you in your room."

"What?"

"You have to get ready, so come quickly."

"I understand. Mister Haku, excuse me!"

I stood up and exited the garden, leaving Haku in a daze.

Before being offered to the King, the king's women had to be washed and perfumed in preparation to be embraced in an accommodating way.

For this reason, it was common for the king to instruct his attendants in advance to prepare a room and the woman he wanted, which is what he did to me on the first night.

By the looks on the ladies' faces, I could tell that it was going to be a terrible night since the king told them to prepare me in my own room.


tl/editor: Greenteaa/Cinder