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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Crown Prince Yoshi - 18. Chapter 18

Chapter 18

The New Lord of Fier.

Three days after the end of the war, the palace buzzed with activity. Noble families making ready to return to their homes. Generals in the allied forces met with imperial scribes who were recording details of the war. Ministers were hard at work to restore a semblance of order in their offices. The busiest man of them was the Minister of Punishment. Trying treason was no easy matter. It included the fate of entire families, evidence to be gathered, vetted and recorded.

As for the Empress, her time was spent preparing an Imperial Crown Prince Investiture. Almira smiled, tracing the embroidery done by the palace seamstresses. Her fingers moving over the yellow dragon on rich red silk. Her work was crowning the heir of the Empire. She wanted the best for Yoshi. He had worked hard. Forged strong relationships with Quad Leaders, stronger than Almira expected.

Last night, Almira tried to discuss Lord Midori with Lady Tinya, and the Terra Commandant brushed the topic aside. A first for Lady Tinya. Almira stepped back from the investiture ceremony robes with a frown.

“The Royal Prince?” she asked.

“He has not returned to the Palace since he arrived that first day, Your Majesty,” Sayuri answered.

Almira understood the reasons. It would be harder for Yoshi to meet the number of people seeking him out within the palace. Regardless of his position as the Commander, the palace observed very strict rules. It was easier for Yoshi to stay in Lord Hong Ma’s estate outside the palace. At least until the allied forces finished their work in the imperial lands. Yoshi used Sando for any communication between them.

“How far along are the preparations for the Crown Prince Household?”

“The Imperial Diet has approved the list of staff members. We wait for the Royal Prince’s response.”

Almira folded her hands behind her back, her thoughts on Yoshi’s new household. After his investiture, Yoshi would start a family to ensure the Empire’s future. It worried her that Yoshi’s future seemed to include Lord General Midori. Not because he was a man, no, her family was fluid in relationship matters. Her grandfather Reza had an Emperor’s Consort named Hilla from Dwind. Emperor Vulan was born of a concubine and raised under the careful guidance of both Reza and Hilla.

No, the problem was not that Lord General was a man, but that he was Namik the Traitor’s son. How could she allow that man into her palace? The people would not find it favorable to have a man whose father had plotted treason next to the Crown Prince.

Almira sighed. She left the seamstress hall, her steps slow, her thoughts on Lord General. The Royal Family’s first duty was to the people. Perhaps, she had been in the palace too long. She needed to walk among them to understand Lord General’s position.

She paused, and turned to Sayuri.

“Bring Tai and Zia to me.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Sayuri turned to the three new attending ladies following them. Sayuri gave one of them a short nod and the young lady hurried out to relay the order. There was much change in the palace. It would take time for Almira to gain trust again.

Meanwhile, a trip outside the palace would help her understand how much change to expect in her palace.

***

“This servant pleads for an audience with the Royal Prince. Please hear my plea!”

Yoshi rubbed his temple and shifted in his seat. It was early morning, the sun still too young in the skies. Yet the man outside seemed to have woken earlier than the birds. His plea for an audience incessant, Yoshi sighed, and looked to Sando.

“Find out what is going on out there. Why does Lord Hong allow the ruckus? Solve it, Sando.”

“Yes, Royal Highness.”

Sando left the large room quickly, leaving Yoshi to face the allied forces council sitting along the large breakfast table. They had also woken with the birds this morning and descended on Lord Hong’s residence for a meeting. He had expected it, especially since Lady Tinya and the Princess Naria had both met the Empress.

Yoshi reached for the cup of hot tea before him and took a sip, took two sips, then forced all his attention on the council’s concerns.

“The Minister of Punishment has prepared the treason trial well,” Lady Tinya said. “We are to be present tomorrow, mid-morning. The trial will be held in the Capital Square to allow the people’s presence.”

“Security is still an issue,” General Heloth of Earith said. “There are those who still think Lord Namik’s cause was just. Having so many Quad Leaders and the Royal Prince in the Capital Square will require extra attention.”

“The Head of the Black Guard will ensure your safety,” Yoshi said, giving the man standing by the wall a quick glance. “As for the trial, we hope it concludes fast, we are more concerned about returning peace and commerce in the Capital.”

“Rest assured. Trade has resumed,” Lady Pipa said. “Dwind merchants have started their deliveries, as has Earith and Terra. The schools are working, the healing centers open, and the ministers have reopened offices. However, Fier is struggling, other than the iron mines, which are under imperial control, the rest of Fier is at a standstill.”

“Fier is in crisis,” Princess Naria said, slicing an apple into pieces. “Without a clear future, Fier’s displaced people continue on as refugees, and those in Fier who have gained undue power are using it to oppress.”

“They need a strong leader,” Lady Tinya said, sipping mild wine from her goblet. She gave Yoshi a short smile. “A leader they can trust, one of their own, as they will have a hard time believing they can survive a treasonous leader.”

“The ruling house holds no grudge on the people of Fier,” Yoshi said, his thoughts on the people Midori introduced him to in Earith. They were a constant in his head. He wondered about them, worried for them.

“If that is so, perhaps Your Royal Highness might consider that Lord General is the only living heir to Fier’s Red Castle,” Princess Naria stated. “He is strong enough to hold Fier until the crisis is over.”

Yoshi felt a painful pang hit his heart hard. He had not stopped to think of what kind of future Fier would have after the war. Fier was part of the Empire. As such, they needed imperial support and understanding, which included having a leader who could guide them into peace. Yoshi placed his cup of tea on the table and folded his arms on his lap.

“Lord General is heir to Fier. Now that he has dealt justice on Lord Namik, the people expect to see him in the Red Castle,” General Heloth said. “I believe he would manage to control the rebellious Fier nobles, and quell the remaining rebellious Fier forces. Earith is grateful to Lord General. If he takes over the reins of power in Fier, we shall assist him fully. I don’t think I would trust another in that position.”

Yoshi’s fingers curled into tight fists. What had Midori told him that day in the forest?

“…If you recognize Fier as part of this Empire, don’t try to talk me out of this decision…”

Midori was Fier. General Heloth’s offer was one Midori would not refuse, especially from a Quad so rich in agriculture. The Fier people needed relief. Yoshi bit his inner lip, and wondered if he wasn’t too selfish, thinking Midori should enter the palace with him. Once an Emperor’s Consort, Midori would need to be an impartial leader. Showing favor to Fier would lead to dissonance.

A small squeeze on his shoulder had him turning to his left to look at Telia.

Telia bowed her head and gave him a small smile.

“Lady Pipa asks what your thoughts are on the matter of Fier’s leadership, Royal Highness.”

Yoshi straightened his shoulders and met Lady Pipa’s gaze.

“A strong leader must take the helm,” Yoshi said, refusing to mention Midori’s name until they spoke. It was difficult to give Midori up. “We are sure this strong leader will appreciate General Heloth’s kind offer for support.”

Lady Tinya nodded and met his gaze.

“If Lord General is in charge of Fier, Terra will provide transportation to help the displaced return to their homes. We shall also offer support in terms of rebuilding infrastructure.”

“Dwind offers manpower,” Lady Pipa said. “We will work with the Fier people to rebuild what was damaged.”

“The Furian Forest shall provide much needed supplies and direct support should the Lord General need it,” Princess Naria said. “We shall not limit the type of support, as it shall be assessed as needed.”

“In addition,” General Heloth said. “My people are good at building and agriculture. We shall share our knowledge with Fier.”

Yoshi sat in silence, unable to protest this....he had no words. The ruler in him glanced at the Head of the Black Guard.

The man took a step forward and gave a short bow.

“Your people shall not fear for their safety. The Black Guard will ensure their personal security on behalf of the Imperial Palace.”

“Thank you,” Lady Pipa said on behalf of the council.

Yoshi stood then, surprising Telia who helped pull his chair back.

“If that is all, we have matters to attend,” Yoshi started to turn away from the table, only to pause when Princess Naria stood.

“I would ask for a moment with Telia, Your Royal Highness,” Princess Naria said. “Please do not worry yourself over the clean up outside the Capital’s wind gates. We are close to restoring the battlegrounds.”

Yoshi nodded and waved Telia to stay as he left the large room, his heart hurting. He wanted to see Midori but the man was firmly entrenched outside the capital walls. Midori insisted on burning the fallen Fier soldiers, and giving them honorable burials.

Yoshi folded his arms behind his back and sighed. Fier was such a source of all his heartache.

Outside in the corridor, Yoshi paused when Sando came hurrying to his side.

“Royal Highness,” Sando said when he reached him. “Prince Saki wishes to see you.”

“Is he the one calling for a plea?” Yoshi asked, with a frown.

“Yes,” Sando nodded. “His father is in custody, ready for trial tomorrow. Prince Saki worries for the souls in his household. As you know, treason is no easy matter. The moment Tailen is branded a traitor; all associated with him shall suffer greatly.”

“Haven’t they already,” Yoshi murmured under his breath.

Yoshi stood staring at the gardens in Lord Hong’s compound for a moment. His mood already ruined by the allied council’s newest plot to separate him from Midori. That he could not fight it left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. What fate was this, having Prince Saki show up at his door for mercy?

“Lead the way, Sando,” Yoshi said, with a small wicked smile.

***

Saki Meng knelt on the stones in Lord Hong’s compound, his attendant beside him. His gaze searched the many corridors and houses in Lord Hong’s estate, searching for a glimpse of the Prince Yoshi. His heart dying with every second the man failed to appear.

He thought of the servants working in his compound: the cooks, the tailors, the groomsmen, and so many more, all who might be sentenced to death on suspicion of treason. Thanks to their master, his father, Prince Tailen. The weight of them on his shoulders left him sleepless in the night. His heart thumbed hard when the black guard graced the courtyard. He watched them scatter in the open space, and take up position in discrete but strategic spots.

His attendant beside him tensed when they caught a glimpse of blue and gold robes coming along the corridor right ahead. Saki lowered his head down, knowing he no longer had the right to gaze on Prince Yoshi.

He raised his gaze though when the footsteps approached him, but only saw Sando, the Prince’s chamberlain, before he quickly lowered his gaze.

“The Royal Prince will listen to you now. State your concerns,” Sando ordered.

Saki pressed his palms to the ground and lowered his head in a deep kowtow.

“This lowly servant has no right to ask a favor of the Royal Prince, but please hear my plea. Spare the lives of the staff living in Epang Manor. They are innocent in my father’s schemes. I plead for mercy on their behalf. Please hear my plea.”

Saki kept his gaze on the stones on the ground, his palms cold, and his knees numb from kneeling too long. When the Prince said nothing, fear seized him, as he suddenly realized he had no real knowledge of Prince Yoshi. Would he refuse his plea? They had tried to murder him and the Empress. Was Yoshi frightening like the Empress?

“Raise your head, Prince.”

The gentle voice that spoke reminded him of Almira’s tone, without the hard edge of power. Saki sat up, keeping his head down, his gaze on black leather boots with gold metal caressing the soles in intricate designs. The palace workshops had a lot of time. Blue silk robes embroidered with white phoenix designs touched the cobbled stones, and he blinked when a finger hooked under his chin, raising his head. Yoshi had squatted to his level, the long sleeves of his robes sweeping the ground.

Saki took in a deep breath when he met a honeyed gaze. Saki tried to look away, but Yoshi wouldn’t let him, tightening his hold on Saki’s chin.

“What fate is between us that a Prince would kneel for mercy? It makes this Royal Prince wonder. In another reality, you might have been the royal prince and, this royal prince, would have walked in your shoes. Do you think you and I would have met in such a way?”

Yoshi smiled at his own question, his gaze amused.

“I’ll tell you a secret, Prince Saki. This Royal Prince is much too lazy. He would have relished the chance to gallivant through the Empire unhindered. I would have ridden wild horses over the hills and valleys of Earith. Danced on the sand dunes of Dwind, gone swimming in the deep blue waters on the shores of Terra, and learned to forge metal as the Fier people do. I imagine I would have taken the time to discover the deep magical secrets of the Furian Forest, and begged more than the one horse from the Furian Princess.”

Yoshi dropped his hand away from Saki’s chin.

“When I tired of adventure, I would have slept on the long red grasses in the imperial lands and watched the blue sky to my heart’s content. Free to love, free to live, and free to be. I assure you, Cousin, you and I would have met in the most different of settings. I imagine only to see how you, my blood cousin, were doing in your heavy duties, and to greet my nephews and nieces, if some came along. These are only thoughts, Prince Saki. Thoughts and wishes, I suppose, as that fate is not in this lifetime.”

Saki understood what Yoshi painted with his words. Before his father had truly gained momentum on his crusade, Saki had found joy in the simplicity Yoshi described. He had no idea his Prince Cousin also loved to lie on the red grass in the Imperial Lands and stare at the sky. It would have been something they could do together.

“Royal Prince—

Yoshi pushed up to his feet, and straightened his robes in one sweep of his wrists. He took a step back, his expression closing off, effectively silencing Saki.

“The Empress endured a poison storm in the palace. One started by people from the majestic Epang Manor. Your family home, Prince Saki”

“There are those who are innocent,” Prince Saki insisted.

“You are right,” Yoshi nodded. “And the Minister of Punishment shall make the necessary decisions, tomorrow, mid-morning. We shall discover who is innocent and who is not.”

Saki closed his eyes.

“Royal Highness.”

“We cannot bear to see a Prince on his knees much longer.”

Yoshi turned away from Saki.

“The plea is heard,” Yoshi declared to all present. “This Royal Prince orders as follows: those with minimal responsibility to the chaos Prince Tailen and Prince Saki created shall find favor under imperial law. Those with fault shall face severe judgment according to the same imperial law. We can promise to look at each case and ensure fitting justice. This is the extent of my mercy, Saki. I truly wish you and I had never met in this way. I would have preferred to play with my nephews and nieces as they came to you. Do find peace, Cousin.”

Saki felt a lump of tears lodge in his throat, his gaze on Yoshi who strode away without looking back at him.

***

“He is no longer the soft-hearted Prince we knew,” Tai noted, standing next to the Empress as they watched Yoshi walk away from Saki.

“It’s not easy to see family on the chopping block,” Almira answered, her grip on the fan she carried tight. “Yoshi has made the right judgment. We can only save those proven innocent. With Yoshi’s words, the bureau will work hard to collect enough information on each case.”

Zia shifted to block Almira from a passing carriage filled with curious citizens.

Almira smiled when a peddler selling persimmons caught her attention and beckoned her closer. His fruit stand was set up right outside Lord Hong’s residence. Almira imagined he paid a bit of rent to Lord Hong’s property office.

Almira ignored Zia’s protests, and walked to the peddler.

“Buy persimmons for your house, noble lady. They are fresh, straight from a tree growing in our backyard. My boy and I collected them this morning.”

Almira smiled and took one of the bright orange fruits, bringing it to her nose. She loved dried persimmons. Yoshi liked fresh ones. She picked out two, handing one to Tai, and the other to Zia. They both turned away from her to bite into the fruit. She smiled at the peddler as he held out a small basket as she made her choices.

“Were you safe during the war?” Almira asked, her tone conversational.

“We were caught up in the initial attack,” the peddler said, helping her choose the best fruit. “Our house has shallow fences, and not many places to hide, so we were on the streets running for safety. Lord Hong was kind enough to let us stay in his estate. We were lucky. The bureau kept the streets relatively safe.”

“Relatively?” Almira inquired with a small frown.

“Chaos breeds opportunists, noble lady,” the peddler smiled at her. “There are those who wish to take advantage. Thieves, hooligans, trouble makers. Lord Hong did his best to protect the Capital.”

Almira nodded and cleared her throat.

“I’ve heard that Fier’s Lord General helped the Royal Prince defeat the enemy,” she said.

“Oh yes, even now, he works hard outside the wind gates to clean the aftermath. Many have praised him for being a hero. Word is he fought off Namik’s Army with a hundred men and breathed fire on the enemy’s camp.”

“Did he now?” Almira stared at the Peddler amused. “Kind sir, you don’t mean Lord Midori actually breathes fire?”

The Peddler grinned and beckoned her to lean closer. She did, and he said in a loud whisper.

“He did it to protect his beloved who was in danger, you see. A love story bloomed out in the battlefield between the Commander and Lord General. What a match. I bet the Empress is going to scream down the palace when she discovers it. She is too strict for her own good.”

Almira gaped, dropping a persimmon on the ground.

Zia picked it, placing it in the peddler’s cart. She started to reach for the peddler, but Almira pushed her back, smiling at the peddler.

“The Empress must have her reasons,” Almira said in answer to the Peddler.

“She must,” the Peddler shrugged. “Royal folk have their set of rules I suppose, and can’t be faulted for their own shortsightedness. She has survived treason, and her beloved son whom she thought dead, has saved the Empire. Only the heavens know what she has endured behind the gilded walls of the palace. The best we can hope for is the peace she so loves to foster.”

Almira nodded, and urged Zia to pay the man.

“Make sure these fruits go into Lord Hong’s residence,” Almira said.

“Lord Hong’s residence has many people—,”

“Give them to a man named Sando along with this,” Zia said, also handing him a red token.

Almira reeling at the idea of her being shortsighted over her son’s chosen love, turned to follow the path heading toward the capital’s busy market.

“Tai, do you think I’m shortsighted?” she asked.

Tai bit into his persimmon and made a show of chewing his fruit, while Zia hid a chuckle. Almira sighed and kept walking, seeking a different opinion.

***

Yoshi entered his quarters still caught up in the issue that was Saki. Saki with his pleading eyes. His one cousin, his blood, offspring of one who had dared try to murder him. Saki had wanted his throne. Yoshi knew it, but it was difficult to wipe out an entire house related to one.

“This is why the Empress threw the treason case to the people,” Sando said behind him. “There is nothing you can do for him, or the people in Epang Manor. He is scrambling for a way out.”

“Doesn’t make it easy,” Yoshi murmured, suddenly exhausted.

How could wielding a sword in battle be easier than politics?

“There is a matter that needs your approval,” Sando said, bringing him an official scroll with the Imperial Diet’s seal.

Yoshi took the scroll and went to lean on the wall by open windows so that he could stare out into the bustling courtyard behind Lord Hong’s estate. Lord Hong treated the officers in the bureau as he would family. Allowing them to have rooms for use within the estate as needed. The kitchens bustled, the officers trained hard, and Yoshi loved the sense of community within Lord Hong’s walls.

Breaking the seal, Yoshi stared at the contents of the scroll from the Imperial Diet and his heart squeezed tight. He was to be Crown Prince in two days, and expected to choose a concubine in order to establish the future ruling household.

“They want me to choose a concubine now,” Yoshi frowned. “They say the Imperial Consort can wait, but the concubine is needed for the house’s future. Isn’t this meant to be my choice?”

Yoshi dropped the scroll on a table next to him, and closed his eyes.

“First the Allied Council, now the Imperial Diet, why does everyone know what’s best for me?”

“Royal Highness is to be Crown Prince,” Sando said, his head bowed. “Much will be expected. You must now live for the Empire, Royal Highness. After the trials tomorrow, if the Lord General still hasn’t met you in the Capital Square, you must return to the palace to prepare for investiture. It is the only way to release the allied forces and allow daily court to start. The Capital is still in a state of emergency; official business must continue. The Empress insists that she can only trust you with court matters. The Imperial Diet has no choice either.”

Yoshi leaned his forehead on the window frame. The duty he had fought for was calling him. No one close to him now called him by his given name. It was Royal Prince, Royal Highness. At this rate, he was bound to forget his given name.

“Where is the Lord General?”

“Still cleaning up outside the Capital,” Sando answered. “Royal Highness, you have to consider the possibility that you might need to delay his walking through the Gold Gates. Work on consolidating your power as Crown Prince instead.”

Yoshi closed his eyes. The Gold Gates were capital gates opened on the very special occasions of admitting a new member into the royal family. The people would heavily shower the path to the palace with red flowers. If Midori accepted to be Imperial Consort, he would endure this long walk into the palace under a heavy costume to meet Yoshi in the Palace Courtyard. The last time the Gold Gates opened was for Yoshi’s father.

Almira had wed in peacetime. There were no councils to stall her choice, no treason plots to mar her love’s name.

Yoshi pushed off the window frame and picked up the Imperial Diet’s scroll. He walked to his desk, and reached for the seal that would change the moment he became Crown Prince. Pressing it into red ink, Yoshi sealed the scroll accepting the mandate to start his household. Yoshi handed the scroll to Sando, and watched him leave his quarters.

A nagging thought filled Yoshi’s mind: it was time to think of a concubine fit enough to be the mother of his future child.

***

Telia stared at her Princess Naria, eyes wide with surprise. She stepped back to drop into a chair across the Princess.

“What did you say, Your Highness?” Telia asked.

Princess Naria chuckled and got up, coming to hold Telia’s hands. Her warmth seeping into Telia’s cold skin. She leaned in and pressed a soft kiss on Telia’s lips. Telia’s heart fluttered as she stared into the depths of this woman she loved unconditionally.

“I’ve not been kind to you, my love,” Princess Naria said, squeezing Telia’s hands. “I’ve sent you on dangerous paths, forcing you to protect the Crown Prince. I know it has been hard for you to see Hinna working hard in the ordinance troops, but she has grown in to her own. You will be proud of her.”

“I do not regret following your orders, Princess Naria. The Crown Prince is worthy of my devotion. My work is done now that he is safe and to be crowned. I’m ready to return with you to the Furian Forest.”

“Where we shall have to hide our love, my dear,” Princess Naria said, disappointment heavy in her tone.

Telia stared down at their clasped hands. Yes, despite her adventure protecting a prince of the realm, she remained without title among her own people. She had no right to remain close to Princess Naria.

Princess Naria brought one hand up to stroke gentle fingers on Telia’s jaw, wiping away tears Telia had not known she shed.

“Join the Imperial Household,” Princess Naria said. “Give him a son, and you will return to the Furian Forest with a royal title. All that I have is yours, Telia. Help me give it to you.”

Telia closed her eyes. She had often wondered why Princess Naria paired her up with Yoshi. So much planning for this moment. Princess Naria and the Empress were really too perfect for each other.

“Do you imagine I would leave my son alone without his mother?” Telia asked, thinking their way of life asked too much of her. While she could keep a daughter, a son was left to the world.

“What if I enter the palace, and I’m not able to leave?”

“You care for Yoshi,” Princess Naria said in realization.

Telia opened her eyes and met Princess Naria’s surprised gaze.

“I have protected him, watched him struggle through pain, betrayal, and threat of death. One cannot help but love him, but I know he loves the Lord General. I will not get in between them this way. However—”

Telia started to push Princess Naria aside, only to have the Princess pull her into her arms. All her fight ended when she breathed in the Princess’s scent of home. She closed her eyes and allowed the Princess to hold her.

“I love you, Telia,” Princess Naria said in a soft gentle voice. “Have for a long time now.”

Telia brought her hands up to wrap them around Princess Naria, holding her tight.

“I love you too.”

“Then you know, whether you choose to stay in the Imperial House, or come home, nothing changes between us.”

Telia felt her tears soak in to the Princess Naria’s dress.

“I would spare you the trials you have faced, and reward you with the best life can offer. The only way to do that is if your status rises higher than it is now. An Imperial Concubine is high enough to break the bonds of doubt in our home, Telia. When Yoshi comes to you, please accept his offer to enter the palace.”

“How do you know he’ll turn to me?” Telia asked. “There is the Lady Pipa of Dwind. She is beautiful. We can’t forget Lady Tinya of Terra, who must have a candidate waiting. There is also Earith.”

“Yes, but each one of them is as ambitious as Namik was without the thirst for blood. Yoshi will come to the same conclusion I have. Please think on it, my love.”

Telia nodded and buried her face into Naria’s shoulder, basking in this rare moment in the Princess’s arms.

***

The treason trial drew hundreds of spectators to the Capital Square. The justice department had built a dais in the middle of the square where the magistrate would listen to evidence brought against the accused. The Allied Council sat on one side listening to the magistrate as he read out crimes committed by men and women working in the Chancellor’s office.

Midori stood in the crowd, a cloak over his head, and his gaze on Yoshi who sat straight in his official white and red royal robes. His hair held up in a severe tight hold, the gold clip on top of his head hiding every silky strand. Sando and Telia stood behind Yoshi’s chair, their gazes sweeping the crowd, alert.

Shouts of approval filled the square when the clerks on trial were judged guilty and sentenced to hard labor in government lands.

“We have spent most of the morning sentencing staff members and individuals who assisted in the plot to murder The Royal Prince, leading to a severe rebellion that has left thousands dead.”

The Magistrate spoke in a loud and clear voice.

“It is now time to read judgment on an investigation ordered and carried out with the support of Her Imperial Majesty with the help of the Royal Bureau’s Lord Hong Ma. The following persons are accused of originating a most foul plot to murder the heir to the throne and take control of the Empire. We have gathered extensive evidence supporting the accusations leaving the court with no choice but to accept that a lengthy trial shall not benefit the Empire.”

Midori gave Yoshi a longing glance, then stepped back into the crowd to join his men on the fringes of the crowd gathered. Lenoth and Naro both gave him short nods as he mounted his black stallion, Midnight, and threw off the cloak from his head. Behind him, Lenoth and Naro followed suit, mounting their own horses. Lenoth led a fourth horse that carried Namik’s dead body.

Midori gave a low whistle jerking the crowd around them to attention. Soft gasps and murmurs started and the crowds parted giving them way as they rode forward to the dais. The magistrate was reading out the names of the accused.

“Former Minister of Defense Sharifa, Former Minister of Rites Zanna, Deceased Chancellor Rokka, Prince Tailen Meng, and his son, Prince Saki Meng and Lord Namik of Fier.” The magistrate paused, to turn to Yoshi with a short bow. “Let the Council know that Chancellor Rokka was killed during the initial arrest. Lord Hong Ma recorded the Chancellor’s involvement extensively. We shall share those details with His Royal Highness after the trial ends.”

Yoshi gave a nod of understanding, and the Magistrate’s gaze returned to his audience.

“Bring the accused to the dais,” the Magistrate ordered.

Accusing shouts filled the morning as officers in blue led the four men named to the dais. They were dressed in white trousers and tunics. Their feet in simple sisal sandals. Their hair disheveled. Prince Saki was the only one in decent boots.

The Minister of Justice followed behind them. Minister Won looked exhausted but he walked up the steps fast and with a little bounce in his step. The cases before him were career making. That the Empress had trusted him without interference was enough to show how much she valued his work ethics.

The Magistrate stood aside, allowing the Minister to greet Yoshi, then the Council. He turned to the people and folded his arms behind his back.

“The four men you see before you worked in harmony. First, they mobilized the Imperial Army, close to three hundred thousand men, sending this army to Fier to join Namik the Traitor in a firm rebellion against the Empire. Second, the four accused created a network of men and women who worked together in an attempt to murder The Royal Prince. Third, they are charged with presenting an impostor who is falsely interred in the Royal Cemetery under the Royal Prince’s name.”

“Fourth, they poisoned the Empress’s most loyal chambermaids in an effort to murder her. Last and not least, they started a war designed to take over the Imperial Government, leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent souls across the Empire. The council that governs the Allied Forces fought the rebel army at the capital gates and in different Quads. The biggest proof of their crimes is the presence of the His Royal Highness, Yoshinori Taimeng before us, safe and sound. Lexin City mourned our Royal Prince deeply, and to see him safe and whole is to know that we were deceived.”

Minister Won extended his right hand to indicate the men now kneeling on the dais.

“On behalf of the people and the power given to me by the Imperial Court, I, Minister Won, charge these four men with treason.”

Shouts of approval filled the square, until Midori climbed the dais and stopped before Minister Won. A hush fell over the crowd when Lenoth and Naro dropped a body covered with a white sheet before the Minister.

“What is this?” Minister Won asked, his gaze on the body at his feet.

“I am Midori Sanori, son of Namik of Fier. I bring you my father’s body as he was the biggest of sinners in this treasonous plot,” Midori said, then dropped to his knee, followed by Lenoth and Naro. “Fier has wronged the people. We are at your mercy.”

Midori felt Yoshi’s gaze on him. Minister Won stayed rooted on the spot, still staring at the body at his feet.

“Minister Won,” Princess Naria said, getting up from her chair to stand beside Midori. “The Allied Council vouches for Lord General Midori. He risked his life to ensure our campaigns were a success. He has protected innocents. I would stand as his ally.”

Minister Won dragged his gaze away from Namik’s dead body and turned to face Yoshi. He bowed his head low as he spoke.

“Namik of Fier is guilty of treason. I cannot speak of Midori Sanori, as the reports the justice offices have received indicate he is a protector of the people. As this decides the fate of a Quad, I leave this judgment to Your Royal Highness.”

Midori felt Princess Naria’s hand on his shoulder, just as the crowd around them started murmuring, their voices quickly turning into shouts.

“Release him, he fought for the Empire.”

“Spare his life as he saved countless people.”

“He fought his father, and stopped a rebellion.”

Yoshi let the crowd scream out their thoughts for a full minute before he got to his feet. The silence that followed this simple move was enough to tell Midori that the Capital recognized and accepted their future ruler. Minister Won and the Magistrate moved aside, giving Yoshi room.

Princess Naria also stepped away though she did not take her seat.

Yoshi stopped before Midori and held out his right hand.

When Midori made no move to take Yoshi’s hand, Yoshi bent down to look into his eyes.

“One such as you should never kneel before us,” Yoshi said, loud enough to be heard by those closest to the dais. “You have to know, that you saved more than the Empire. Rise, Lord General. The Empire recognizes your service.”

Midori felt happy when shouts of approval filled the morning when he got to his feet. He wasn’t surprised when Yoshi kept holding on to his hand. Yoshi’s gaze skimmed over him for a moment before he turned to face the crowd.

“Fier has suffered much,” Yoshi said, when the crowd calmed down. “We have all suffered and survived as one people, despite those who would wield hateful wedges between us. Peace will reign once again in this Empire. Lord Midori Sanori, you are free of your father’s sins.”

Midori felt relief flood him when no roars of protests met an imperial pardon. He had managed to acquire the people’s love, and Princess Naria’s support. Now, to convince an Empress. Yoshi dropped his hand and he looked up with a frown when Yoshi returned to his seat without looking at him.

Once again, The Royal Prince.

Minister Won thanked Yoshi with a bow, and took a scroll from the Magistrate.

“In light of the severe crimes listed, and the damage to the Empire’s peace, the men accused of treason shall face death by hanging this afternoon. Their families are stripped of noble status and their assets revert to the Imperial Court. Imperial Law is not without conscience. The innocent of associated crimes in the accused homes shall be acquitted. Those found guilty will face arrest. I, Minister Won, shall ensure this matter is followed to the end.”

Yoshi got up from his seat, and started to leave the dais followed by the black guard.

“So, that’s how the Imperial Family treats blood,” Prince Tailen spat out, his words directed at Yoshi. “Hanging us like common folk just because we rebelled. Doesn’t that make you a tyrant? And you wonder why I thought you would never make a good leader.”

Yoshi stopped his descent from the dais, the black guard giving him room as he turned to face Prince Tailen. Princess Naria gasped beside Midori, and he could see why. Yoshi’s eyes burned red, like he had done that day in Dwind. Midori moved to intercept him, but Princess Naria grabbed his arm stopping him.

“He is in control,” Princess Naria murmured in surprise. “He has learned to control it, somehow.”

Yoshi walked to Prince Tailen’s side, hiding his eyes from the crowd.

“What pleasures have you enjoyed thanks to the Imperial Family you so hate? Epang Manor has existed for centuries. Meng family from Epang Manor has always been at peace with Taimeng, until you. You dared plot murder. Murder against Taimeng, murder across an Empire, murder that killed thousands of people. What rewards did you think you would get for that?”

Yoshi hissed, and his hand touched Prince Tailen’s jaw, tilting his head up so that he had no choice but to look into Yoshi’s burning eyes. Tailen gave a startled cry and Midori took a step closer, afraid Yoshi would burn Tailen before so many people.

“I think of that boy you murdered in my place at the start,” Yoshi said, his tone pained. “That young man’s name was Ting. He was a serf who believed a prince lived a better life. Only to be stabbed to death mere minutes later. What irony,” Yoshi chuckled, the sound bitter, “that being a serf saved me.”

Yoshi leaned closer and stared into Prince Tailen’s gaze who was now quiet, and shivering.

“Do not dare ask what the Imperial Family has done here. Hanging is mercy.”

Prince Tailen screamed and Midori gritted his teeth when he saw Yoshi’s fingers hot against Tailen’s chin.

“If it was up to me, I would burn you to death, resurrect you then tear you to pieces. You would believe me a tyrant then.”

Yoshi let go of Prince Tailen and straightened to his full height. He let out a harsh breath and stepped back.

“Take him away,” Yoshi hissed, and stalked off the dais, his black guard close behind him.

Sando hurried to Midori’s side after Yoshi was gone.

“The Prince wishes to see you,” Sando said.

“I’m staying in a boarding house next to the most popular tea house, close to the capital market.”

“Then, I’ll be by to help you make arrangements,” Sando said, and hurried after his charge.

“For someone who has managed to unite a divided Empire, the Royal Prince looks pretty down,” Lenoth said, coming to stand next to Midori. “Why do you think that is?”

Midori refused to comment because he suspected it had to do with him, and the fact that he might be heading to Fier. Fier was vindicated, but there was a lot of work left to do. He glanced at the four men being led off the dais by officers from the magistrate’s office to face their end. Midori was not surprised when the magistrate’s officers took Namik’s body with them. Traitors were buried in government cemeteries. Namik would be no exception. Midori was surprised to find no remorse plaguing him on this matter.

A hand touched his elbow and he turned to find Telia smiling at him.

“Want to confirm the execution with me?” Telia asked. “The Royal Prince’s office has trusted me with this task.”

“Let’s go. I don’t think I will find sleep if I don’t confirm the ending.”

Midori matched his step to Telia’s as they followed the officers in charge.

They walked behind the small procession heading to the magistrate’s office. Crowds parted to give them way. Cabbages leaves, rotten persimmon fruits and reeking onions flew at the four prisoners. Telia and Midori slowed down their pace to avoid showering in rotten vegetables.

“How is Yoshi?” Midori asked as they entered the relatively calm magistrate’s compound.

“Do you ask because you don’t know?”

Telia glanced at him, her hands folded behind her back.

Midori winced, and Telia nodded.

“I know you haven’t been to see him since you valiantly put down Namik. The Palace has descended on him full force. Dozens of eyes monitor his every move, decision, hell they even record how long he eats his food. Still, I never realized how heavy his burden was until I watched him try on his investiture robes. Through it, Sando stood next to him reading out a very long list of rules to remember through that insane ceremony. I don’t think I could remember any of it, and Yoshi simply nodded without batting his eyelashes.”

“Palaces are pure power. That’s why they require rules to manage them,” Midori said. “Living in them whittles away dull edges.”

Telia stopped, forcing Midori to turn and face her.

“Can I ask you something?”

Midori noted her gaze turn serious and nodded.

“You love Yoshi. You know he must have an heir for the Empire. How do you feel about that?”

“If you’re asking if I’m jealous, then the answer is yes,” Midori said. “I’m human after all, Telia. At the same time, I know Yoshi is mine in every sense and I will love his children, because they are his. I want to live with him until we’re both old and see the next generation take over. I imagine I’m jealous now because it might take longer to start this future.”

“And the woman who gives him these heirs?” Telia frowned. “What about her?”

“Loving an Emperor requires an open heart, Telia. In a world of thrones and power, I imagine both Yoshi and I will have to do all we can to protect her. She’ll be the first person they target, but we’re strong. It won’t be easy. We’ll keep the family safe.”

“You sound so sure,” Telia smiled.

“I have to be.” Midori returned her smile. “If I’m not, Yoshi will worry. Life is hard for him when he worries. The next three years won’t be easy for any of us. I’ve spent time reading the palace rules, and once Yoshi is crown prince, they expect him to start his household. Meaning, he needs an Imperial Concubine, who is about the blood. The Imperial Consort can enter the palace later as that position is about power. Yoshi can take his time choosing. The Empress will be expecting Yoshi to consider this much.”

“As though we all don’t know he has chosen his consort,” Telia teased. “Who do you think Yoshi will choose as concubine?”

“Someone he can trust,” Midori said. “Someone without ambition for more in that very powerful palace.”

“Ah, Yoshi is lucky.” Telia grinned. “I’m jealous.”

“You call him Yoshi.”

“Only with you,” Telia said, flashing him a startling smile. “I wouldn’t dare to his face now.”

“He is just a man.”

“To you,” Telia said, as they reached the hangman’s scaffold to find Prince Tailen, Minister Sharifa and Minister Zanna lined up on the dais, heavy ropes resting around their necks.

“To the rest of us, he remains at the highest point of the Empire, Lord Midori. One word from him will mean the life or death of a soul. To the people he is someone to respect and fear.”

Midori crossed his arms against his chest, watching Prince Saki who stood on the sidelines watching his father, eyes filled with tears. He wondered what Yoshi had decided to do with the Meng Prince. It couldn’t be easy, wiping out an entire clan. Yet, leaving one behind meant the possibility of another uprising.

“Despite the reverence in your tone, Telia, Yoshi remains just a man. One with a heart that can break, hurt, and at times, fill with immense pity. It’s all heavy to him, so heavy, he loses sleep.”

Telia patted his arm.

“Lord Midori, your love sure shines bright.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Midori nodded to Prince Saki. “Let’s find out what they’ve decided to do with that wiggling culprit.”

***

Midori waited with Telia to discover what Prince Saki’s fate was after the executions were over. Midori wondered what Yoshi was thinking keeping Prince Saki alive, but at the same time, he understood Yoshi worried about turning into a tyrant for murdering his own kin.

The House of Meng was more trouble than they were worth, but the weight of their ancestors was heavy on Yoshi’s shoulders.

Midori waited with Telia, nibbling on nuts as they watched Prince Saki pay his last respects to his father. Once the Prince finished saying goodbye to his father, he turned to the Magistrate awaiting his fate.

“Prince Saki,” the Magistrate said. “Your family has brought great dishonor to the Empire. Your father is labeled a traitor, and your family stripped of any standing in the Imperial Court. Despite that, The Royal Prince believes your circumstances did not offer you much choice. He has spared your life, but orders you live in exile, under the Sand Queen’s careful eye, in Lilind’s stronghold. You will not return to the Empire’s Capital, nor have access to Quad Politics by law. The Royal Prince promises to take care of those who matter to you in Epang Manor on your behalf.”

Midori nodded when he saw Hinda, the Dwind man who had said he would not enter the Black Guard, appear followed by five others like him.

“Good choice,” Midori murmured, thinking of Lilind and how much she frightened him.

“The Royal Prince is wise,” Telia said, with a please smile. “Life under Lilind does not leave one open to treasonous thoughts. Saki will grow up well.”

“Saki won’t think so,” Midori said, watching Hinda take Saki’s arm and lead him out of the magistrate’s compound. “Life won’t be easy for him out there.”

“Exile in Lilind’s territory is much better than death at the hangman’s noose. Besides, Lilind is loyal to House Taimeng. She will turn Prince Saki into something useful.”

“If not, then I will make sure to end him,” Midori vowed, getting up. He stretched his arms above his head and gave a sigh. “He will never again trouble Yoshi this way.”

“Now what?” Telia asked, still sitting.

“Now,” Midori dropped his arms to his side and took in a deep breath. “It’s time to work on getting that future I so wanted. I have someone waiting for me. See you later, Telia.”

Midori returned to the boarding house to find Sando waiting for him in the reception area sipping on tea. He was dusty, hungry and tired, but the sight of Sando sent a new wave of energy through him.

“Were you waiting long?” Midori asked, when Sando sprung to his feet. “I would have been ready, but—,”

“Don’t worry about that,” Sando said, taking his Midori’s left arm. “Come with me.”

Midori allowed Sando’s hold because he knew Sando would never do it without cause. Sando led him out of the boarding house and into an alley on the boarding house’s right. Minutes later and Midori was ushered into a black carriage that set off immediately. He was alone in the comfortable carriage. The driver urged the horses into a faster speed, so Midori leaned back and relaxed, only sliding the window open slight to confirm they were heading out of the capital gates.

A tickle on his nose woke him, and he opened his eyes to find amused honeyed eyes watching him. Midori smiled and brought his hand up to take the feather Yoshi was using to tickle his nose.

“You must have been exhausted,” Yoshi said, still leaning over Midori.

“You must love watching me sleep. Why didn’t you wake me?”

Yoshi grinned and disappeared.

Midori couldn’t help the slight panic. He sat up quickly to realize he was still in the black carriage. Yoshi sat opposite him, dressed down in pale green robes, his hair around his shoulders.

“I didn’t want to wake you from your dreams. They looked restful. Hungry? You look like you could be hungry. Come on, Midori.”

Yoshi started to get out of the carriage, but Midori reached for him, taking his left arm and pulling him onto his lap. Yoshi chuckled as Midori wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into a tight embrace. Midori closed his eyes, breathing in his handsome prince, feeling his heat against him.

“I’ve missed you,” Midori murmured into Yoshi’s ear, holding him tight.

Yoshi pressed a kiss on his temple and pulled back.

“Come inside, have a bath, change your clothes, and eat something. My turn to take care of you, Lord Midori. You’ve worked too hard of late.”

Yoshi didn’t give him a chance to hesitate. Instead, pulling him out of the carriage. Midori paused when he realized they were in a private estate in the Imperial Lands. Peach trees grew around a neat, peaceful residence.

“No one will disturb us here,” Yoshi said. “There is only a lady who keeps up the place. Sando, Lenoth and Naro. No one else.”

“The Black Guard?” Midori asked, following Yoshi to the front door of the house.

“They guard the perimeter of the property. No one will dare approach.”

“You’ve thought this out.”

Yoshi led him deeper into the house, down two corridors and into a bathhouse with a large tub built in the middle of the room. Hot water already steamed away in its depths. Midori squeezed Yoshi’s hand in excitement.

Yoshi chuckled, and turned to help him out of the leathers he wore. Midori laughed when Yoshi wrinkled his nose at how ripe he stank. Midori couldn’t blame him. It had been a while since he had the luxury of a bath. When Midori stepped out of the dark trousers he wore, he straightened to his full height, closing his eyes when Yoshi’s warm hands pressed into his chest.

Gentle fingers traced his skin, pausing over healing cuts and bruises.

Midori opened his eyes and found Yoshi staring at a deep cut on his left arm.

“I tried to keep my promise. It wasn’t easy.”

Yoshi stepped closer and pressed a kiss on his chest.

“Get into the tub. I’ll help you wash your hair and scrub your back.”

Midori watched Yoshi move to the tub, sinking his fingers into the water to test the temperature. Midori didn’t wait for the go ahead, instead climbing into the heavenly water with a moan. The water felt just right, like sinking into comfort. His aching muscles welcomed it.

“If you scald your butt, I’ll be cross with you.”

“Bet you will be,” Midori said with a grin, as he leaned his head back to meet Yoshi’s gaze.

“Very,” Yoshi poked Midori’s left shoulder, laughing when Midori sunk into the hot water.

When he came up again, Yoshi was waiting with soap for his hair. Midori closed his eyes in pleasure when Yoshi’s fingers sunk into his hair, massaging his scalp. Yoshi worked in silence, getting a bucket from a set that was left to the side of the tub. He used cool water to rinse the soap out of Midori’s hair, pouring the dirty water into a bucket.

“You’re oddly quiet,” Midori said when Yoshi finished and was running a comb through his hair.

Yoshi continued the soothing motions, combing Midori’s hair as Midori sat in the hot water, staring at the high rafters.

Midori tried to catch a glimpse of Yoshi, but it was hard when his man insisted on working from behind him.

“You looked majestic at the trial this morning. You turned the people to my side with a few words. You favor me, Yoshi.”

“I was only appreciating the fact that you survived a fight to the death with Namik.”

“Did you think I would lose?”

“That’s not the point.”

Yoshi placed the comb on the holder next to him, and patted Midori’s shoulder. Midori leaned forward, a soft sigh escaping when Yoshi started on his back. Yoshi scrubbed his back thoroughly, then his fingers moved over Midori’s tense shoulders, drawing a soft moan from Midori’s lips.

“Yoshi,” Midori said after a while.

Yoshi’s nails dug into Midori’s skin making him yelp.

“Anything could have happened.”

“Alright, I won’t joke about fighting Namik anymore.”

Yoshi reached for a small white cloth and used it to wipe his hands as he moved away from the tub.

“You’re angry.” Midori reached for soap and a cloth and concentrated on bathing. “Is it because I refused to march into the Capital two days ago?”

“I waited.”

Midori glanced up to find Yoshi leaning on the wall, his arms folded against his chest.

“I’m here now.”

Yoshi watched him instead. Midori wished he could see what Yoshi was thinking. It was a tragedy not knowing. Midori bathed with care, scrubbing away grime. When he was done, Yoshi helped him rinse, and brought him a large white bath towel. Midori got out of the tub, grinning when Yoshi got started wiping away the water.

Unwilling to hold back, Midori wrapped a strong arm around Yoshi, pulling him into his arms. Before Yoshi could speak, Midori covered Yoshi’s lips with his in a desperate, savage kiss. Yoshi responded with a startled moan, his arms locking around Midori’s neck the towel dropping down to the ground as they both let go, uncaring.

Midori took his lips in another kiss. Exploring Yoshi’s mouth with wild need. He was a man starved in the desert for months and only just found water. They kissed until breathing became necessary and even then, Yoshi still clung to him, unwilling to part.

“Our chamber?” Midori asked, between kisses.

“Turn right, straight down the corridor to the doors at the end.”

Yoshi grinned when Midori lifted him up.

Midori ran his hands over Yoshi’s back, grunting in satisfaction when Yoshi wrapped his legs around Midori’s hips. Midori held Yoshi’s thighs, smiling when Yoshi broke their kiss and stared at him.

“What?” Midori asked when Yoshi traced his face, a frown dancing on his forehead.

“How is it possible to love you this much?”

“How much?” Midori asked, carrying Yoshi out of the large bath.

“I feel as though I might burst into pieces with it all,” Yoshi said.

“I’ll hold you together.”

Yoshi held his gaze, helping slide the door to their chamber open. Midori stepped into the spacious room, pausing only long enough for Yoshi to slide the door closed. He headed for the wide bed in the east corner, with red silk curtains hanging from great pillars set around the bed.

Midori placed Yoshi on the bed, and watched him lie back with a seductive grin.

Yoshi untied the sash holding his robes together, and threw his hands up above his head.

“This Prince is impatient for Lord General’s touch.”

Midori grinned and crawled over Yoshi.

“Lord General accepts request,” Midori murmured, pressing his lips to Yoshi’s neck, sucking hard on delicate skin. He smiled when he drew a wanton moan from Yoshi.

***

Hours later, thoroughly steeped in passion, Yoshi pulled on a large pillow, resting his head on the soft fabric, eyes closed. Warm kisses trailed a path up his left thigh, drawing soft pleased moans out of him. He chuckled when Midori squeezed his left butt cheek and pressed a kiss on his lower back. Then Midori lay over him. Midori’s weight on his back left him breathless. They were skin to skin, Midori’s fingers trailing soft caresses up his back to his shoulders, the soft caresses turning firm as they went down his arms to his hands. Strong fingers wrapped around his, and he opened his eyes when Midori kissed his left shoulder. He tangled his fingers with Midori’s, biting his lip when Midori licked a path to his left ear.

Yoshi sighed when Midori let go of his hands, his weight shifting from Yoshi’s back. He smiled when Midori swept his hair into a ponytail.

“Your hair has grown an inch,” Midori said, his fingers playing with the long strands.

“Are you measuring it?”

“Every time we spend together. Although, there seems to be a small chunk of it that’s shorter.”

“Sando’s work,” Yoshi said.

He lifted his head slightly, to find Midori watching him.

“I thought you said no one could cut your hair.”

“We did it to reassure my mother I lived.” Yoshi didn’t miss the little frown that crossed Midori’s forehead. “When we were in Dwind.”

“Right,” Midori nodded. “Tai?”

Yoshi nodded, shifting so that he lay on his right side facing Midori.

Midori took Yoshi’s left hand, opening Yoshi’s palm so that he could massage each finger.

“When you touched your uncle with your fingers, you were on fire this morning. How?” Midori studied Yoshi’s hands. “I thought you needed Telia to put you in that state.”

“I talked to Princess Naria the night before the last battle. I was curious after the fight in Dwind, and me waking up from it so soon, I wondered what I could do with the energy. Princess Naria said that my body was older, and it had developed the strength to handle the toll of use. With time I can sharpen the skill, use it like Lilind’s children do the sand.”

“What triggered it today?”

“White hot anger,” Yoshi said, shifting so that he rested his head on Midori’s lap. He smiled when Midori pulled him closer, making sure Yoshi was comfortable. “I couldn’t believe my uncle would dare accuse my mother of being unfair, after we’ve been to war over what he did.”

“I guess the fire inside you is tied to your emotions.” Midori tangled their fingers. “So many possibilities.”

Yoshi met Midori’s dark gaze and grinned.

“I’m sure we can experiment.”

“Not yet,” Midori shook his head. “I don’t want to burn into a crisp.”

“That would be very unsexy,” Yoshi agreed.

“Very, you need to start work on controlling it.”

Yoshi’s gaze strayed to their clasped hands. His heart squeezing tight at the simple pleasure. Being here like this made the past weeks seem like a lifetime ago.

“Whose house is this?” Midori asked.

“Mine.”

“Technically anything in the Empire is yours.”

Yoshi met Midori’s gaze.

“It was my father’s house before me. My father hated palace life. I’ve told you that he was a free spirit. Loved his freedom, hated palace rules, and hoped to live an unencumbered life.” Yoshi waved his free hand to encompass the large room. “This was his sanctuary. Whenever he went missing, Mom always knew to find him here. He’d bring me with him, sometimes. When he died, he left the property to me. The only thing I own that is not attached to my title. If they deposed me, this is where I would live.”

“Then your home is a beautiful place,” Midori said. “I understand why your father would choose it, and no one will depose you as long as I live.”

“This place…it is yours too, Midori. If you ever wish to escape…”

“Are you offering me sanctuary?”

“All I have is yours,” Yoshi answered, meaning it.

Midori stayed silent and Yoshi looked up to meet an intense dark gaze.

“What?” Yoshi asked.

“Something’s bothering you. Has been since I saw you at the trial. Are you going to voice what has you so worried?”

Yoshi chuckled.

“I’m quite sure I’m not worried right now.”

“You’re hiding the worry,” Midori said, his fingers pushing dark hair out of Yoshi’s face. “Focusing on the present as though it will keep it all at bay.”

“We should keep it that way,” Yoshi murmured.

“Talk to me,” Midori insisted.

Yoshi closed his eyes, heart racing. There were topics he wanted to avoid. Their time alone was limited to this night, the day tomorrow and the night. It felt like he needed every second in between to get enough of Midori, and even then it wouldn’t be enough.

Yoshi took in a short breath, letting it out slow.

“Fier.”

He opened his eyes to find Midori studying him. Midori’s dark gaze unreadable.

“Yes, my home is in crisis,” Midori said with a nod.

His tone matter of fact.

Midori knew he had to return, Yoshi realized.

Yoshi sat up then feeling this was not the best way to discuss the future. He reached for his white silk robe and wore it as he climbed out of bed, tying the belt tight.

Yoshi walked to a table near open terrace doors. He poured water into a goblet and brought it to his lips, taking a deep sip. Fortified, he turned to look at Midori who still sat in the middle of their bed. Midori had also reached for his robe too. The dark robe Midori wore a stark contrast to the white sheets in a tangle around him.

“You remain Fier’s heir.” Yoshi felt rips in his heart as the words left his lips. “The Allied Council sat me down early this morning. Each one promised you relief should you return to Fier. Their plans were hard to ignore. Fier will recover with their help. I felt compelled to offer security in the form of the Black Guard.”

“Are you speaking to me right now as the Royal Prince, or my lover?”

Yoshi placed the goblet on the table, angry at that statement.

“Is there a difference?”

“Yes. A big difference,” Midori frowned.

Yoshi turned away from Midori and picked up his goblet again. He took another healthy sip of water, his heart thundered in his chest.

“Then I’m both at the moment.”

“Yoshi, look at me.”

Seductive words coming from Midori’s lips. It was hard to ignore them, so Yoshi turned to face his lover.

“The Royal Prince knows your place is in Fier for now. Your lover is more selfish. I wish you would enter the palace with me. I want to keep you by my side, despite Fier’s plight. Do you hate me for that?”

“No. I’m fighting the same war.” Midori touched his left temple. “This knows why Fier needs me, but—”

Midori’s hand dropped to his heart.

“This wishes for you, and all that you are. The wish is acute, almost suffocating. I don’t know how I could live ignoring it.”

Yoshi placed the goblet on the table with a small bang.

“What do we do?” Yoshi whispered. “I don’t want to live without you, Midori. Who knows how long it will take to stabilize Fier? Who knows what political potholes will appear? I don’t want to take the risk of you being unable to enter the palace later. It might kill me.”

Midori got off the bed and hurried to his side.

“It’s not like we won’t see each other. You will run the Quad Council every new moon. Fier is obligated to attend. We will see each other, my love.”

“Amidst political allies and rivals,” Yoshi said. “Those in the allied council will now be part of the main Quad Council. This situation is impossible. Still…I didn’t want to discuss politics in this place.”

“How long can we stay?”

“Tonight,” Yoshi sighed. “Tomorrow night. After that, Lord Hong will be here in the early morning. I’ve delayed the crown prince ceremony too long. The court is impatient.”

“We’ll make the most of our time then.”

“It’s not enough.”

Midori placed his hands on Yoshi’s shoulders and gave him a small shake.

“Yoshi, one second looking into your eyes is a gift. If it turns into an hour, a day, I feel I’ve struck gold.”

Yoshi felt tears sting his eyes and moved to press his forehead into Midori’s chest. Midori stroked his hair, kissing the top of Yoshi’s head. His tears soaked into Midori’s gown at the thought of not having this affection every day.

“We’ll make it work,” Midori murmured into his ear. “A few days ago, you won a war and legitimized your right to rule, Yoshi. Don’t tell me you can’t handle a few years without me. I know you can.”

Yoshi scowled and punched Midori’s left arm.

“I don’t want to have to handle it. You’re an eligible man, and too sexy for your own good. Once you reach Fier, how do I know you won’t be snatched up by—?”

“You’re the only one for me,” Midori said, holding him tight.

Yoshi shifted back to look at Midori.

Midori smiled and swept the pad of his thumb under Yoshi’s left eye, then his right, wiping away Yoshi’s tears.

“We’ll be fine,” Midori promised. “I was wrong, let’s not discuss Fier.”

“What do you want to discuss?”

“Why you think I’m too sexy?” Midori teased.

Yoshi pulled away from him.

“Then, I was wrong.”

“You looked serious to me.”

Yoshi shook his head, unable to hide a smile as he hurried to the door.

“Yoshi?”

“I think we should find food,” Yoshi said, opening the door. “Are you hungry, Lord General? Maybe you can cook for us. Like you did in that hut in the middle of nowhere.”

****

They didn’t have to cook. Midori teased Yoshi for asking, when he knew the lady in-charge had the kitchen stocked. Though she had cooked, there was no sign of her in the house. Midori then understood the beauty of this house Yoshi called his. They ate in the kitchen, sitting at table in the middle of the room. Yoshi cutting slices of chicken and placing them on Midori’s rice bowl. When they finished, Yoshi gathered the dishes they used and took them to the sinks. Pushing the sleeves of his robe to his elbows, he got started washing them in the water bowls set in the sinks.

Midori had never seen this domesticated side of Yoshi, he was in love with it. He helped wipe the table, then dry the dishes as Yoshi washed them. When they finished, Midori poured out the dirty water and helped Yoshi clean up.

“If you weren’t a prince, you’d do well working in a tea house.”

“There was a time I admired tea houses. I wanted to own one until I realized I would be too busy to even visit one.”

They migrated to the sitting area. Yoshi coerced him into playing a card game. When Midori won five times, Yoshi threw his cards on the table and gave up. Sprawling on a lounging chair under wide open windows. Yoshi arranged pillows under his head and stared at the stars.

Midori joined him, pulling Yoshi into his arms, a smile curving his lips when Yoshi settled comfortably on his chest.

“So many, I haven’t seen so many in a long time.”

“When did you last look up at the sky?” Midori asked, stroking his fingers through Yoshi’s hair.

“I don’t remember,” Yoshi chuckled.

“The stars are always there, whether you look up or not.” Midori shifted, resting his chin on Yoshi’s head. “On a clear night sky, look up and you will always see the stars. Be it here in the Capital, or in the vast valley filled lands of Fier. Remember that, Yoshi.”

Yoshi nodded against his chest, his gaze intent on the sky. Midori held Yoshi, wishing for an easier future than the one they faced.

***

The next day, Almira watched the line of black guards protecting a property she both loved and envied. Her late husband’s sanctuary. The place he came to escape the many pressures found in the palace. Now, Yoshi used it to meet his lover. A lover that left Almira nervous.

Lord Midori had managed to win two of her most powerful allies. Princess Naria and Lady Tinya. She could not do anything against Lord Midori now. She had read the events at the hearing the day before. The people looked on Midori with favorable eyes. He had fought for the Empire. His political power was assured. She had seen and heard the truth of this while walking among the people. Lord Midori was no easy man.

She turned to Sayuri.

“I’m intruding. We should go back. Sort the issue of Imperial Consort through the Imperial Diet.”

“Her Majesty has wanted to meet Lord General aside for days. There are many eyes in the capital. This is the best place. Tomorrow, both The Royal Prince and Lord General must return to their roles.” Sayuri reached out to squeeze Almira’s left hand. “The Imperial Diet is strict and follows the laws. His Royal Highness will need your support as his mother, in love and in court. It is better if House Taimeng is not at odds, Your Majesty.”

Almira nodded.

Sayuri lowered her head.

“Pardon this servant, but Her Majesty has missed His Royal Highness terribly. It will be good to be in good terms with him now. Better for your heart, Your Majesty.”

Almira sighed.

“Sayuri sees right. Fine, lets see them here then.”

Sayuri rapped on the side of the carriage, it surged forward, and only stopped when they reached the gates guarded by the Black Guard. Almira sat with her hands clenched on her lap as Sayuri pushed back the window to talk to the Head of the Black Guard.

“Her Majesty wishes to speak to The Royal Prince,” Sayuri said.

When there was no answer, Almira pulled back the window more so that she could look at the man in charge of her son’s safety.

“One.”

“Your Majesty,” the Head of the Black Guard bowed his head.

“We understand the rules of this property. Rest assured, we are not here on official business. Think of this as a mother seeking comfort from her child.”

“Sorry to hesitate, Your Majesty,” One said. “Your Guard—

“They will follow your advice,” Almira said. “Sayuri will stay with Sando. Do this Empress a favor. Please don’t announce my arrival, allow me to do it.”

“Your Majesty.” One waved his hand and the gates swung open admitting her carriage.

She and Sayuri watched the Empress’s Guard join Yoshi’s in the buildings around the gate. Halfway to the main house, the carriage stopped. Almira got up and allowed Sayuri to help her change out of the heavy cloak she wore. The sun was out, it was a lovely day. Almira stepped out of the carriage, her simple red and green dress light.

“Stay with the carriage,” Almira said. “I will walk ahead.”

“What if—

“He won’t put me out,” Almira teased. “If he does, I will come sleep in your chambers. Who wants to sleep near lovebirds anyway?”

Sayuri hid a smile but Almira caught it as she turned to walk up the rest of the way to the house her husband build. There was magic in the tall trees, blooming gardens and the calling birds living undisturbed in the forest surrounding the house. Almira remembered staying here for days and forgetting she ruled an Empire. Forgetting obligations, forgetting all that she was. This place sucked one in, made one forget the pressures of real life. Here, she could just be. Dangerous for an Empress.

Almira picked a red peony flower as she branched off the main path on to green grass. She had watched her husband plant the peony flowers blooming in the green field she crossed. Yoshi was one year old. She would sit on a chair in the middle of this field and watch her husband plant each bush with a happy grin. Claiming his son would come to love this place as much as he did.

The sound of Yoshi’s laugh reached her and she paused behind a large peach tree, unable to stop her smile. She peeked around the tree to see Yoshi holding the string of a kite, his head tilted back as he watched his kite move in the air. Midori stood beside him, also holding a kite string, trying his best to tangle his kite with Yoshi’s, who would then step away to avoid it.

They were focused on the kite flying, so they did not see her. Every time Yoshi escaped Midori, he would laugh, until Midori finally caught Yoshi’s kite in a tight tangle. Yoshi dropped his string, reaching for Midori’s. Midori lifted his right hand high, keeping the kite out of Yoshi’s reach.

Almira laughed as she watched her son try to reach Midori’s height and fail. The sound of her laugh startled them, and Midori let go of his string as they both turned to look at her.

Midori started to drop to his knee, and Almira held out a hand to stop him. Yoshi also stopped Midori, urging him up.

“Don’t,” she said. “I’m the one intruding. Besides, consider this place neutral ground. Even an Empress is simply a woman within this property's boundaries. Yoshi, have you not told Midori the rules?”

“Mom, what are you doing here?”

“I’ve missed you longer than he has,” Almira said, bringing the red peony to her nose. “I’m your mother, of course I will seek you out when you hide from me.”

“I’m not hiding.”

“Be honest, Yoshi. You have not returned to the palace since you arrived. Lord Hong has more luck than I do.”

“Don’t say that,” Yoshi said with a sigh. He looked up to find their kites had flown away.

Almira did not miss the disappointment on his face. She tucked the flower in her hand into her hair, and folded her hands behind her back. There was a bench set under a peach tree a few feet away, so she walked to it.

“Yoshi, Mom is thirsty. Will you get me a glass of water?”

Yoshi narrowed his gaze at her, but he did not refuse the request. Instead, he leaned up to kiss Midori’s jaw, before heading in the direction of the house.

Midori watched him go. Almira watched him, searching for deception and finding none. She sat on the bench, and patted the empty space beside her, attracting Midori’s gaze.

“Will you sit with me?” she asked.

Midori hesitated for a second, then did as she asked, perching on the edge, back straight, a military man despite his casual green robes.

She smiled, and sat back.

“Contrary to belief, Lord Midori, I truly do not bite.”

He glanced at her in surprise and she grinned.

“I do bark loudly to make sure everyone believes I can bite.”

When Midori didn’t smile, she sighed and tried another tactic.

“If you don’t relax, I will feel offended.”

Midori gave her another short glance, then took in a deep breath and shifted on the bench so that he faced her. His shoulders still tense, though he made a show of relaxing.

Almira took the opportunity to study his face. His dark eyes full of wary energy. His nose, lips and high cheek bones spoke of noble blood. The dark shadow on his jaws and chin enough to tell her that he had not bothered shaving this day. His lips would have a nice smile, she wondered if he would offer it to her today.

Midori was strong. His shoulders broad, his arms thick and his hands large. He was built for battle. There was not an ounce of fat on him. He was not lazy. He was clean. Most of all, this man who would now rule Fier, dared sit next to her feeling…undeserving. Yes, that was it. He was unsure of his worth, which was different compared to Namik Sanori. Almira found she liked Midori’s humble nature.

“My son is in love with you. He refuses to enter the palace these past three days afraid I will interfere. It is unprecedented. It left me uneasy.”

Midori kept his gaze lowered as she spoke.

“I felt uneasy because you are a son of Namik. For years, your father and I, we did not see a reason to like one another. Fier is a rich source of minerals. The Empire depends on Fier to arm its military. I did not see it coming, but the imperial court has been overrun by men who believe Fier should hold power. They made the war possible in a way I could not have foreseen.”

Almira scoffed and folded her arms on her lap.

“Still, Fier remains important to the Imperial House. Our founder is from your Quad. Much of the Furian Forest is also indebted to the Fier Quad. Tell me, Lord Midori, is my son’s heart safe with you? You may answer.”

“Yoshi’s very soul is safe with me.”

Almira heard no ring of deception in Midori’s voice. Her heart skipped and she couldn’t help the short smile.

“You do not hesitate in your answer.”

“I cannot.”

“What of Fier?” she asked.

“The Empress cares for all in the Empire, including the Fier Quad. This servant must also learn how to support those in my Quad and everyone in the Empire with an open heart as well.”

“Diplomacy,” Almira chuckled. “The palace is no easy place. Your heart will be tested. Your allegiance questioned at every turn. Your soul shot through with many poison darts. There will be many who work to use you to reach an Emperor. An heir will be born, without your help. Will you love him or her?”

“Yes.”

“Despite the fact that the Imperial Concubine may work to take your position in Yoshi’s heart?”

“Yes.”

Almira held his gaze at that second yes. She found no doubt in Midori’s eyes. A wave of understanding filled her. Yoshi had probably had this discussion with Midori. She nodded, proud of her son.

“Very well. My son intends to name you an Imperial Prince Consort. He wishes you an Emperor Consort in time. A rank that will mean you are his equal partner in all but military power,” Almira said, deciding honesty was best with this son of Fier. “Reading his intentions, I have found that these matters will take me time. My heart…needs time to resolve the tangled mess your father made of it. I will ask that you use that time to set Fier in order.”

“You asked the Allied Council to offer me support.” Midori stated in realization.

“It was the only way to manage Yoshi's intentions. You have both managed to gain such strong support with the council leaders. I can only make sure there are no misteps. We have suffered much of late. If your intentions are pure, Lord Midori, you will understand why your shared future must go this way.”

Midori paused in thought, then nodded.

“I understand.”

“Yoshi will enter the palace a Crown Prince.” Almira rolled her shoulders, her fingers flexing on her lap. “He will have time to consolidate his power, adjust to his newfound wings. You understand his house requires establishing?”

“Yes.”

“The Imperial Diet works fast. They already have three candidates. Lady Pipa of Dwind, supported by the Sand Queen. Lady Willo of Terra, brought by Lady Tinya, Commandant of Terra. You are familiar with the last. The Princess Naria conferred a title to the Lady Telia of the Furian Forest yesterday. Earith has opted out as Lord Heloth only has sons. Who do you believe has least ambition?”

“Does my opinion matter?”

“Do you believe it does not?” Almira asked, raising her brow at Midori.

He smiled, charming her once again. Midori was handsome when he smiled.

“I believe in harmony and detest intrigues in the inner court. The past few months have exhausted me. I’m ready to give the Empire to Yoshi to run. I want to grow into an old grandmother who smiles without fear. But I cannot do that without strong assurance. So, Lord of Fier, can you help me achieve this dream? Yoshi values your consul, as Tai has told me. Let me hear your opinion, Lord Midori.”

Midori studied her for a moment, before he spoke.

“Lady Pipa wants progress for Dwind. She wants her Quad recognized and broken out of isolation. She will work to improve commerce between the Capital and Dwind. Lady Tinya has military power. Thanks to your marriage to Yoshi’s father, Terra has prospered. A concubine from Terra will only improve Terra’s political standing. The Furian Forest is on the cusp of change. They would like to join the Quad Council, and this is a first step into the political game. Though, they remain bound to their own rules.”

“Hmm…,” Almira narrowed her gaze. “Terra wants to keep an upper hand on future political standing. Dwind hopes to grow their relationship with the capital, and perhaps the rest of the Empire. And, The Furian Forest is finally embracing the Empire. Two out of three will fight you for the right to rule by Yoshi’s side to farther their Quad’s purpose.”

“Why not all three?” Midori asked.

“You are right about The Furian Forest. Their rules bind them. At the moment, their desire is to be recognized as existing in the Empire. The Princess Naria is not interested in the Imperial Palace. Ruling in the Furian Forest is more than prestigious. She remains a true ally to the Imperial Crown. She cares not for the pomp and circumstance of our capital.”

Midori smiled wide, and Almira tilted her head to study him.

“I suppose you think the decision made.”

“It depends on who makes the final choice,” Midori said.

“The Imperial Diet helps but Yoshi will qualify or disqualify.”

“Then all is settled,” Midori said. “You will achieve your goal of a quiet inner palace life, Your Majesty.”

Almira nodded and returned her gaze to the field of peach trees and peony flowers.

“Midori, as you settle your heart in Fier, I hope you can learn to think of me as Mom. I promise to learn how to treasure that heart of yours that treasures my son. When you return from Fier, this Empress will work to make sure your title as Emperor Consort is protected. Do you agree?”

Midori got up giving her a formal bow.

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

Almira took his right hand, and squeezed it with genuine warmth.

“Now, why don’t you sit comfortably so that my son brings me water? He is hovering at the edge of the garden hoping you and I come to an understanding. We should pull him out of his misery.”

***

Yoshi watched Midori and his mother talk, pacing along the edge of the garden. He wanted to eavesdrop, but that was not his style. He wished he could interfere, but Midori needed to make a choice. Living in the palace with an Empress meant Midori would need to have a relationship with Almira too. One that worked. One they both accepted without Yoshi’s interference.

Yoshi gripped the goblet of water filled with water. He turned to look at Midori and Almira only to find them watching him. Then Midori smiled and a surge of hope swept through him. He stepped onto the grass hurrying to them.

Midori looked relaxed sitting next to Almira.

Yoshi searched Midori’s gaze, looking for signs of distress. When he found none, he turned to his mother, holding out the goblet of water to her.

She took it with a grateful nod and tipped the goblet to her lips, drinking thirstily. When she was done, she wiped her mouth with the back of her right hand and grinned.

“Now, Yoshi. Should I show you how to fly a kite?”

Yoshi blinked.

“Are you done having a talk?”

Almira smiled at Midori.

“Yoshi doesn’t believe I can fly one.”

“Mom.”

“What?” Almira got up and hurried in the direction of the small table laden with kite supplies. “Come on, stop worrying and let’s work on losing ourselves in fun. We have until tomorrow morning before Lord Hong shows up to escort you back to the Capital.”

“But—

Midori stood from the bench, coming to cup his cheeks and kissing him hard, shorting out Yoshi’s ability to think. When Midori stepped back, Yoshi could only watch in surprise as Midori raced after Almira to play with kites.

****

The sun shone golden and bright in the late morning. The Capital alive with excitement, crowds scrambling for a spot on the path leading to the palace. Soldiers lined the edges of the path to keep it clear. A mix of colors from the different quads. Blue uniforms from Terra, white from Dwind, green from Earith and red from Lord Midori’s army.

The Furian warriors would walk the path up leading the Crown Prince’s carriage procession. The Quad Leaders in the Allied Council would follow the Furian Warriors, while the Crown Prince’s carriage would be last. The musicians were already hard at work playing strings. Setting a festive mood. Red peony flowers filled the path, and when the procession reached the capital square, Yoshi’s carriage came to a stop.

Excited screams filled the morning when Yoshi climbed out of the carriage, Sando helping him with the red cloak clipped to his shoulders. When it was spread out behind him, shouts of awe came from the crowd at the golden embroidery of a snarling dragon on the rich robes. Yoshi’s hair was free down his back, with two braids on each side keeping it out of his face. He walked tall, following the Allied Council, accepting the many calls of good will from the people.

A moment of panic filled the procession when a little girl escaped the tough line made by the soldiers. She held a red peony flower and raced right to Yoshi, intent on giving it to him. Yoshi held up his hand to stop the Black Guard from interfering.

The little girl smiled wide, holding out the red peony. Yoshi took it, careful of his regalia as he leaned down to kiss the little girl’s cheek. Her mother hurried to get her, giving him a bow, as she picked up her daughter. He held the flower in his right hand and continued his journey to the palace gates.

In the palace, the noble families sent pieces of red silk on his path.

Yoshi walked steadily to the palace ceremonial hall where his mother and Midori waited. Emissaries from the four quads filled the hall, each one looking on with expectation, their hopes to never face a war placed on his shoulders.

Nervous energy coursing through his veins, Yoshi walked up the opulent hall to the throne where his mother sat in full Imperial Regalia. To her left, stood Midori majestic in his Fier Red robes, every bit the Lord of Fier. When he was close enough, Yoshi met Midori’s dark gaze and had to bite back his smile when Midori winked at him.

Standing at the edge of the dais leading to the throne, Yoshi looked up at his mother who stood up from the throne. She walked down one step to stand right before Yoshi and placed a hand on his head.

“Now, the future is here,” Almira said, her voice ringing with authority. “For Amana is not one, but all of us. United and hopeful, we must match on for generations to come. I, Empress of Amana, Almira Taimeng, do hereby name Royal Prince Yoshinori Taimeng as the Crown Prince of Amana. May he lead the future to glory.”

Almira took a gold crown, which consisted of three thin strands of the finest gold weaved together and decorated with precious red gems, from a box Sayuri held. She placed it on Yoshi’s head, careful to fit it right. Sayuri then handed Almira a box holding Yoshi’s new seal. Almira opened the box, checking to make sure the seal was the right one before she gave it to Yoshi.

Yoshi got to his feet, and turned to face their guests, smiling when the hall filled with wild applause and words of congratulations. Sando took the seal from him, and Yoshi climbed up the steps to stand next to his mother. His heart fluttered endlessly when Almira motioned for Midori to stand beside him.

Turning to Midori, Yoshi held out the red peony flower given to him by a little girl. His love for Midori overflowing when the Lord of Fier took the flower and brought it to his lips. It seemed as though his journey around the Empire had brought him to this moment. And somehow, none of it would have been possible without this extraordinary man.

“I love you.” Yoshi told Midori amid shouts of congratulations.

“I love you more, Yoshi.”

***

Later that afternoon, after one last tight embrace and a heated kiss, Yoshi stood at the palace gates watching Midori ride away in the company of his Fier men. Their time together over for now.

The palace was alive with cheer, the nobles celebrating his investiture, the Capital buzzed with festivities, order restored. Yet, in Yoshi’s heart, a cold front settled.

How long would he have to wait? He wondered. How long until his heart warmed again?

***

Hi!! Happy June 2018!
So, this last chapter is longer than originally intended. It is now broken into 2 parts.
We have worked hard to bring Yoshi closer to his throne and his future. I hope you enjoy it.
Love, Sui.
2012 lilansui
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Great chapter! The empire is similar to the east empires of China and Japan, and also the Ottoman empire, when there are concubines and imperial consorts. And now Midori can take a bit of time to solve Fier's problems, and then find a good governor to administer in his name and come back to the capital... Although the problem of maintaining Fier's heirs exist, similar to the empire it self. Maybe he will get a concubine for that as well. I would go for Pipa for him, it's less power than imperial consort, but Dwind deserve recognition and Terra is very powerful already.

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Outstanding chapter! The interaction of Yoshi and Midori after their long separation was beautiful yet somber, Yoshi was reluctant to broach the political situation conversation to revel in their physical and emotional relationship. Midori finally got Yoshi to admit what he was holding onto which was heartbreak due to his counsel’s insistence on Midori ruling Fier. Once they got the situation cleared up between them, they were more relaxed and happy together. The Empresses visit and conversation with Midori was touching. Their kite flying afternoon was beautiful and during the investiture her calling Midori up on the dais beside Yoshi was amazing. I love this story and all of these characters. ❤️ I’ll truly miss them when this story ends. 💧 I’m looking forward to the next chapter! 😃

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I read this chapter the second the notification for it popped up on my screen. It took me this long to write a review, because I didn't even know where to start. This chapter was well worth the wait, but the anticipation nearly undo me. Practically everyday, I checked for an update, and was very disappointed when there wasn't one. I liked how you had Midori bring his father's body to the trial for treason, because that endeared him even more to the people than he already does. It'll go a long way towards gaining him support from those who might've doubted Feir's loyalty to the empire. Also, it sets a good foundation for when Yoshi announces him as his Prince Consort. The reunion between Midori and Yoshi was well done. The kite scene witnessed by Queen Almira was so adorable, and I'm happy she saw it. I think hearing Yoshi's laughter and seeing them together like that, dissipate the last of her doubt about whether Midori can be trusted, and his love for Yoshi. Another adorable scene, was when Yoshi left them alone, and the conversation that occured between the two, and how Yoshi hovered around after fetching the water. It was so cute. Also, I'm happy they solved the problem of Midori having to go to Feir to help rebuild the state and be Lord. It's sad though that they have to delay being together. Furthermore, choosing Lady Telia as concubine was well thought out. I'm happy she was chosen, because she's not a threat to Midori and Yoshi politically or romantically. Anyway, I'm greatly anticipating the next and final chapter. I'll be a bittersweet moment for all who've followed this story from the beginning, I'm sure.:2thumbs::thankyou::heart: 

 

P.S. I don't know how to feel about Yoshi sparing Prince Saki's life. What if later he tries to finish what his father and their supporters couldn't accomplish.

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@Sweetlion It was interesting setting up this story early on. There was a push and pull on what should happen to Midori and Fier, but I"m glad that's been resolved now, (writing this after posting the last chapter, hehehe.) I hope you love the ending.

 

@Geemeedee Me too.  They were great to create.

 

@flesco Midori and Yoshi together is goals! I love that they both always know what the other needs, especially since they have to endure so much time apart.  I want to kite fly with someone now...hahaha.

On 6/14/2018 at 8:22 AM, bookjunky18 said:

Practically everyday, I checked for an update, and was very disappointed when there wasn't one.

I worked hard for the last one, it's up, just for you! As for Saki, there is Midori and Lilind to keep him in check if he ever raises his head up again. I really hope you love the ending.  A bit of waiting for Yoshi and Midori, some misunderstandings, but in the end, happiness.  I'm so grateful for the support for this story.  Thank you so much.

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Separation will be painful , but seemingly not indefinite! A political arrangement  with Lady Telia would appear to be best , if both parties to the arrangement love somebody different they can more easily persue the primary objective of the arrangement . 

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