Jump to content
    lilansui
    • Author
  • 13,344 Words
  • 4,542 Views
  • 9 Comments
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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Crown Prince Yoshi - 19. Chapter 19

Amana’s Imperial Household

“Your Majesty, Lady Telia has come to visit you this morning.”

Almira looked up from the memorials spread out on her desk. Giving Sayuri a nod, she reached for her pen and signed off on more support heading to Fier. Fier was recovering, but it was slow progress. Too slow, that Yoshi believed a network of merchants was keeping aid out of reach for the needy. Almira knew Yoshi wanted to speed up the process, so she asked him to start an investigation.

She rolled up the memorial, handing it to Sayuri when she returned followed by Telia. The young Furian woman was now Yoshi’s concubine. She had entered the palace six months ago. Almira studied her as Telia did her curtsy before she sat in the chair before Almira’s desk. The palace seamstresses were hard at work, dressing Telia with clothes that would make the Furian comfortable in a palace and still honor her Furian heritage. The morning dress Telia wore was deep red, the skirts soft and sweeping the floor. Her hair held up with gold pins. She looked happy.

“Good morning, Your Majesty. I hope you are in good health.”

“Thank you for coming to visit me every morning, Lady Telia.”

Almira sat back in her chair.

“You shouldn’t be moving around. Your health is more important. What did the royal physician say?”

Telia smiled, her hands over her stomach.

“I’m well enough to move around, Your Majesty. There is nothing to worry about.”

“You are young,” Almira agreed. “Still, be careful. His Imperial Highness will worry if you are not taking care of yourself.”

Telia’s smile lingered at the mention of Yoshi, her gaze on her swollen stomach. She was beautiful in her pregnancy. Almira thought it a miracle that the woman would quicken on the first try. A month after Yoshi’s investiture, Telia entered the palace as the Crown Prince’s concubine. It was a marriage of sorts. One that required ceremony.

Almira was not proud to admit it, but her son had turned into somewhat of a bastard about the whole thing. Drinking through the ceremony, while the nobles of the Furian Forest praised him for choosing Lady Telia. Almira admired Lady Telia’s sense of duty. The woman kept her smile despite Yoshi’s obvious lack of enthusiasm. Although, Almira’s gaze narrowed, she had seen that Telia drank as much, if not more than Yoshi.

Sayuri and Sando conspired behind Almira’s back. Both reaching out to old man Teng Heim for advice. Almira later discovered they had broken out gingko and muiratam tinctures from the royal infirmary. Feeding them to Yoshi for the month he had moved into the Crown Prince’s residence without his knowledge. She couldn’t believe they had fallen back on old housewives tales. Needless to say, the ceremony night had an unexpected turn as both Telia and Yoshi stayed in her chambers for three days straight.

Almira lifted her hand to her mouth to hide her amused smile. It was no wonder that Telia was now pregnant with the heir Almira so wanted. All Telia had to do was come to term, and Almira would take on the challenge of keeping her grandchild alive.

When Yoshi discovered the reasons he and Telia were caught in a passion storm, he sent Sando to work in Almira’s palace for three months. Unable to forgive what he called a personal betrayal.

Almira bit back her laugh. The moment it was discovered that Telia was pregnant, she gifted Sando with a cottage on the outskirts of the capital to call his own. He had worked hard for the Empire’s future.

“Your Majesty,” Telia’s quiet tone drew Almira’s gaze to her.

“Yes, child.”

“May I ask where His Imperial Highness is?” Telia asked. “I stopped by his hall this morning and he is not there. The black guard is also gone.”

Almira dropped her hand to her lap and leaned forward to study Telia.

“His Imperial Highness is investigating a serious matter outside the capital. His office must have forgotten to let you know. I will make sure they do from now on.”

Telia shook her head.

“Please, don’t force them to tell me. It will seem as though I’m forcing—,”

“There is no forcing, it is the right way. Don’t think on it.”

“I’m afraid His Imperial Highness is unhappy,” Telia said in a rare moment of candor.

Telia was often smiling and took her time in the palace as a new adventure. For her to mention this—Almira had hoped she was the only one to notice.

“His Imperial Highness has not smiled for months. He fills his day from morning to late night with work. If not work, he is terrorizing the royal physician to ensure my diet is right. I almost feel like a project to him. When he sits with me, he listens, and responds but doesn’t laugh, or smile. I don’t know what else I should do. Your Majesty, is it still not possible for the Lord General to enter the palace?”

“Lord General is now Lord of Fier. These past six months have not been easy for him, and we are all working hard to make sure Fier stands on its feet.”

“Is that why His Imperial Highness is gone today?”

Almira nodded, though she did not voice her answer, her gaze on Telia who looked very worried about Yoshi. Lord Midori was right about her from the start. He had said she would have genuine affection for Yoshi. She would focus her attention on Yoshi, especially if she had nothing else to do.

Almira knew well enough the perils of worrying over a husband who wouldn’t change.

“Lady Telia, do you know what the hardest thing in this palace is?”

“No, Your Majesty.”

Almira smiled.

“Finding out the truth of His Imperial Highness’s thoughts. You can only do what you can for him. He won’t let you do more. Instead of worrying, why don’t you focus on preparing to meet our grandchild?”

Almira nodded in approval when Telia smiled at the thought.

“If you’re bored, you can also try one of the many other activities that concern the empire. The Princess Naria told me you love training young minds. The Royal Academy is without much information on the Furian Forest. Why don’t you spend a few hours at the Royal Academy and discover what you can do to educate others on your rich culture?”

“Would they be interested in learning?”

“How will you know if you don’t try?” Almira asked. “Your fellow sisters are now part of the Quad Council. Monthly quad meetings are not enough to allow scholars to understand their decisions. Yet with you, the scholars will have all the time they need to ask questions.”

Telia smiled, this time her eyes brightening with a sense of adventure.

“It sounds interesting.”

“Good,” Almira said.

Sayuri entered the office, her expression enough to let Almira know she was needed elsewhere.

Telia stood, giving Almira a bow.

“Thank you for your time, Your Majesty.”

Almira watched Telia leave and once the door to her office was closed, she turned to Sayuri.

“His Imperial Highness?”

“Sando was in the kitchens late in the night. He packed food enough for two days. I doubt they slept. They were gone before the first morning call.”

Yoshi must have received urgent news.

“Is something wrong with Lady Telia?”

“No, she’s just attentive. She worries about the Crown Prince. Tell the royal physician to pay extra care. Her emotional health is important too. Tell them not to restrict her. Let her do what she wishes.” Almira sighed. “Crown Prince is so busy filling his time, no one can reach him emotionally. To stop her worrying, fill Lady Telia’s day with activity. It will distract her, keep her from thinking too much.”

Almira shook her head realizing that the days of worrying about Yoshi were hardly over. He was now caught in a crisis she had helped forge. The Crown Prince whose heart was closed off until his beloved returned.

“There is always something,” Almira murmured as she got up.

****

On the peak of lush moorland, in the cover of tall bushes and brush, Yoshi sat atop Senbon his gaze on the procession of Fier refugees on the outskirts of Earith heading to Fier. The wide path below lay between the Furian Forest and Earith, leading straight to Fier.

Yoshi brought a spyglass to his right eye and turned to focus it on the fast moving horses a distance behind the exhausted procession. Riders with no distinct colors. Swords at their backs.

“Bandits?” Sando asked beside him.

“Merchant bodyguards,” Yoshi said. “They are after the carriages in the procession. If they get them those people will be at a loss of food and supplies. That’s two days’ worth of supplies. The children and the old won’t make it.”

“That’s brutal. Hundreds stranded without food to eat.”

“The main problem is the swords the mercenaries carry,” Yoshi frowned. “The refugees resist, the swords come out and the children are left without families.”

Yoshi handed his spyglass to Sando. Removing a map from a pocket in his sleeves, he studied it for a minute, before he folded it and turned to face the new General of his imperial army.

“General Benal, are your men able to reach that road fast enough?”

“Yes, Your Imperial Highness. I am ready for your orders.”

“Protect the refugees, and capture the mercenaries. We want them alive.”

“Your command,” General Benal gave him a swift bow before he hurried away.

“This is a relief,” Sando said with a happy sigh. “The days of Imperial Highness rushing straight into trouble are gone.”

“I wonder if I shouldn’t join General Benal in the fight,” Yoshi said, taking the spyglass from Sando to continue watching the men and women with their families heading to Fier.

“Don’t even think about it,” Sando warned. “Can you imagine the explanations I would have to give if you returned to the palace with a small cut? The Empress might decide on shaving all the hair on my body with a dull knife. There is now Lady Telia too. Why do you have such fierce women around you?”

Sando shuddered on his horse.

Yoshi chuckled and shook his head.

“It would be entertaining to watch you squirm.”

“You’re cruel, Imperial Highness.”

Yoshi smiled though it quickly disappeared when he saw one of the carriages in the procession below lurch to the side. Directing the spyglass to the incoming bandits, he cursed under his breath, and took up his reins. Hanging the spyglass on a loop on his belt, he urged Senbon into motion.

“Imperial Highness?!”

Yoshi kept going, knowing his guard would follow. The carriages needed to keep moving. Yoshi rode Senbon down the moor, emerging into an open plain where Yoshi allowed Senbon the freedom to burst into a fast run. Worried cries came from the people walking along the path to Fier when Yoshi reached the broken down carriage.

“We offer help,” Yoshi called out. When the black guard reached him, the worried cries turned into alarmed comments. “Be at ease. They will not harm you. We offer help.”

“We had a run in with bandits in dark clothing when we left Dwind. We lost a few of our own.” A man holding on to the broken down carriage stepped forward. “Please understand our wariness.”

“You are safe.” Yoshi got off Senbon and moved to examine the carriage. One of the wheels was stuck deep in a crevice on the road. Yoshi frowned. “What’s inside the carriage?”

“Food supplies,” the man answered. “Also, my pregnant wife. She’s not able to walk the distances. We can’t lose this carriage.”

“Don’t worry.” Yoshi smiled motioning the black guard in to help with the carriage. He took the worried man by his shoulders, moving him to the side so that the black guard could work.

“If you’re not related to this carriage, keep moving,” Yoshi announced to those who had stopped to watch. “There are mercenaries right behind you. Keep going until you reach those cliffs.”

Yoshi didn’t have to ask twice. The men, women and children took off heading toward the cliffs ahead.

“What’s your name?” Yoshi asked the man whose wife was in the carriage.

“Jian, My Lord.”

Jian looked too nervous with the added knowledge of a team of mercenaries racing toward them.

Sando started to correct Jian, but Yoshi gave him a censuring glance. He was finding anonymity allowed him greater freedom. If possible he wanted to keep his real identity hidden. With his hair tied up, and in regular merchant clothes, no one would think him a royal. He winked at Sando, and turned to keep distracting Jian.

“Jian, why don’t you introduce me to your family as my guards work?”

Jian nodded, and urged his daughter forward, followed by his two sons. Each one saying their names, before quickly stepping back. Yoshi noted that the last of the procession had passed the damaged carriage, moving fast toward the cliffs. Leaving them wide open to the incoming mercenaries.

“And, this is my oldest son, Ilan,” Jian said, with pride, his hand on a tall boy in his late teens.

“Ilan,” Yoshi smiled at the boy, noting the line of men galloping toward them. “Take your sister and brother, head to the cliffs.”

“I don’t want to leave my parents,” Ilan protested.

“We shall protect them,” Yoshi said, squeezing the boy’s shoulders. “Be good, and protect your sister and brother.”

Ilan turned to his father, and when he got a nod, the boy took his brother and sister’s hands rushing off to follow the others despite the kids protesting.

“This is very kind of you, My Lord,” Jian said. “Helping us when you don’t have to. I insist on repaying your kindness when we are settled. How can we find you, My Lord? May I know your name?”

Yoshi glanced at Sando at a loss, not having thought of that before, then he grinned.

“Lord Midori Taimeng,” he said. Taimeng was also a common name. “I…am a…tea merchant. Traveling from Lexin City. You may find me in the busiest tea house in the capital selling my wares.”

Sando turned to hide his laugh.

Yoshi focused on Jian, patting the nervous man’s shoulders. The carriage doors opened slightly, and Yoshi caught sight of a worried woman. Yoshi directed Jian to the carriage doors.

“Talk to your wife, Jian. She looks nervous. It’s not good for the baby. We’ll handle the mercenaries.”

Jian hurried to the carriage when he saw his wife peeking out. Yoshi drew his sword, glancing at the Head of his guard. A second later, the carriage was free and moving forward. Jian climbed in with his wife, as one of the black guard jumped up to drive, heading the carriage toward the cliffs.

The guard had finished just in time. Yoshi held his sword tight as the mercenaries got closer, bearing down on them with their fast horses, their blades drawn. The Black Guard blocked Yoshi from engaging the oncoming mercenaries, standing in a tight wall before Yoshi and Sando.

Yoshi hissed when the guard engaged the bandits in fierce battle. Pulling the mercenaries from their horses with skilled grace. General Benal’s men soon joined the fight. Yoshi imagined the general had a team watching him too. Within minutes the mercenaries were subdued, with two left alive for interrogation.

“The procession continues on to Fier,” General Benal reported when the struggle ended with minimal injuries on their side. “I have ordered men to guide them the rest of the way, and sent word for the many military stations along the road to Fier to be on the lookout.”

“Well done, General,” Yoshi sheathed his sword, sparing a short glance on the two men now in General Benal’s custody.

“We want to know the merchant behind these men by tonight,” Yoshi ordered. “Once found, he will stand as a lesson to all who think they can rob from allied forces. Is that understood, General?”

“As you command, Your Imperial Highness,” General Benal said with swift salute.

Yoshi turned, his gaze lingering on the disappearing carriage in the distance. Jian and his wife would be safe now. Yoshi hoped Jian’s wife would bear a healthy child. Thinking of her, brought him thoughts of Telia in the palace.

He frowned. He had forgotten to let her know he was leaving this morning. She worried, and the royal physicians was concerned. Yoshi reached for Senbon’s reins. He would visit her first the moment he got back to the palace. For now, Yoshi mounted Senbon, he had somewhere to be.

“Won’t you wait for General Benal?” Sando asked.

“I trust the General to handle the case,” Yoshi said. “Make sure he reports before the day ends. You know where, Sando. I needed to confirm the attacks first. Now that I saw it with my eyes, let every military officer be aware that it is their job to protect those traveling. Meanwhile, General Benal must bring me the merchant behind these attacks.”

“Yes, Imperial Highness,” Sando said, hurrying back to General Benal to relay Yoshi’s message.

Yoshi urged Senbon home, sure that the Black Guard would shadow his every move as they always had.

Yoshi pushed Senbon hard, a sense of urgency filling him the closer he got to the residence in the middle of nowhere. It had turned into home these last few months. The only solace in this very long waiting vortex. The only time he felt as though he could manage the loneliness in the palace.

Heart pounding like a maddening drum, Yoshi felt as though he might soar into the sky when he saw the gates to his haven. The two guards in charge opened the gates for him and he continued his race up to the main house.

When he got to the front door, he jumped off Senbon and ran to the front door, opening the doors.

“Midori?” he called out. “I’m home.”

Yoshi stopped in the living area, breathing hard, his gaze colliding with that of the lady who took care of the house. She stood holding a dusting rug, eyes wide in surprise.

“Your Imperial Highness,” she said, recovering into a short bow.

“Anyone else here, Nia?” Yoshi asked.

“I’m sorry, Your Imperial Highness. There is only me.”

“Any messages?” Yoshi asked.

“Yes, a man associated with Fier’s Lord Midori dropped by three weeks ago.”

“Why didn’t you send word?” Yoshi demanded.

“He asked me to place a letter in your chambers. He was very specific, so I thought Imperial Highness would know about it.”

Yoshi thanked her and left the living area, hurrying to what he considered his and Midori’s chambers now. Sliding the doors open, Yoshi paused when he saw the large bouquet of red peony flowers on the bed. Nia had to have replaced them every day for they looked as fresh as though picked this morning.

Yoshi fought the disappointment flooding him but it was impossible. He walked to the bed, sitting on the edge, his heart heavy. Picking up the bouquet he brought it to his nose for a smell, and that’s when he saw the sealed letter on the bed. Placing the flowers to the side, he picked up the letter, his thumb sweeping over the red wax sealed with Midori’s Fier seal: a burning phoenix.

Yoshi broke it fast and opened the letter. His chest tightened when he recognized Midori’s handwriting.

Yoshi,

Have you been well? I wanted to see your face this last full moon, but could not leave Fier. Instead, I’ve written a letter and asked Naro to deliver it to you. You wait for me. I know it, and it pains me to ask you to wait for me some more. It pains me even more to tell you I won’t be able to make it for the monthly quad meetings. Problems in Fier require my personal attention. I need to handle them first if I’m to return to you.

What else do I do, Yoshi? You’re all I have. I can only keep asking you to wait for me.

Today…was hard. I spent the day sentencing men who protected many Fier families during the war. However their greed took over when the war ended and they have been slaving those families to work their lands while providing them with minimal food. Children starving, old parents tilling land from dusk until dawn. These men knew the war was over. Knew that the Fier governing council is providing relief as the people return to their daily lives. Yet, they kept up such brutality. It was hard to bear. Anger brewing so deep inside, I could not stop from giving harsh punishment.

This is but a small fraction of the many such camps I must dismantle in order to return normalcy to the Quad. I dare not sleep too long, instead I ride the valleys and hills with the men and women sent by the allied council, working to restore what was taken. I want to finish it as fast as possible.

Yoshi, seeing what the people of Fier have endured under my father, has left me shaken. I want us to build a better world, a better future for them. Restore hope, and knowing you work for the same thing gives me strength to keep going. I want you to know that at the end of it all, I find myself wishing for you. Wishing I could hold you in my arms.

This evening in a small village in the valley, I stood outside, though it be cold, staring at the stars and found some comfort. The stars are beautiful this night. I hope you do look up once, and know that we see the same thing. I miss you. I love you.

Yours,

Midori.

Yoshi reread the letter, again and again. Imagining Midori sitting in a farm house in the valleys of Fier writing this letter. Riding with Naro and Lenoth at his side, and at night staring at the stars. Yoshi wiped tears away only when two drops fell on the letter, staining the parchment. He placed the letter to the side and sat staring at the floor.

Would it be improper if he got on Senbon now and rode to Fier? He could work next to Midori until they settled Fier, and then they would both return to the palace when it was done. Wouldn’t that settle this heavy burden on his soul? This waiting that was slowly driving him insane. It would disappear then, wouldn’t it?

Yoshi wiped tears from his cheeks and started to lie on the bed only to hear a knock on the door.

“Your Imperial Highness,” Sando called. “There is urgent news from the palace.”

Yoshi closed his eyes. One minute, he just wanted one minute to himself.

“It’s Lady Telia, Imperial Highness.”

Telia. He couldn’t leave her. She needed him too. Their child needed him. Yoshi wiped a hand down his face, wiping away the traces of his sorrow.

“Enter, Sando.”

The door slid open, and Sando came in looking harried.

“What is it?”

“Lady Telia left the palace to visit the royal academy, setting the royal guards into a panic. The Empress is visiting farm lands in the imperial lands. You are the closest, so the censors sent word here.”

Yoshi sighed.

“Those old coots. Telia is a Furian. They can’t expect her to start acting demure just because that’s what they want. Where is Telia now?”

“Still at the Royal Academy,” Sando said.

Yoshi took the letter from Midori and slipped it into his pocket. He would read it later in the privacy of his chambers at the palace. He gave the flowers one last caress and decided to leave them on the bed.

He stood, and went out of the bedroom heading to the kitchens where the lady in charge was working at the stove.

“Nia.”

She turned to face him, her head bowed.

“If anyone connected with the Lord of Fier drops by, direct them to the palace.”

“Yes, Your Imperial Highness.”

“Thank you for keeping everything intact,” Yoshi said, moving to squeeze Nia’s shoulder before he headed outside.

The ride back to the capital went fast. Yoshi ignored the path to the palace, heading to the royal academy instead. The institution was sponsored by the imperial house, however the imperial house had no direct power within the academy walls. This was a longstanding rule for three generations. Yoshi dismounted senbon when he got to the academy, adjusting his merchant robes, glad that he was not in his official garments.

Visiting the academy was an exercise in restraint. Scholars criticized and inquired about everything. No wonder the censors in the palace were concerned about Telia. An imperial concubine was in a position to influence him. Scholars loved latching on to concubines and consorts.

Yoshi sighed, folding his hands behind his back as he strolled through familiar paths.

“What will you do?” Sando asked, from behind him.

“Nothing.” Yoshi smiled. “Telia is not your typical concubine, Sando. You should know, you spent time with her on our long journey across the Quad. She’s here because she’s bored. Scholars are great fun, she’ll spin them around in circles until they fall on their faces.”

“You didn’t think they were fun when they were questioning your decision to choose a Furian over Dwind or Terra when you were choosing a concubine.”

Yoshi chuckled as he walked up great steps to the dome hall.

“Aren’t they just frustrating?” Yoshi shook his head at the contradiction. Inquisitive minds.

The doors at the dome were slid closed with a slight opening left. An invitation to a curious student to enter the dome and listen to discussions. Sando slid the door open for him before he could touch it. Yoshi entered the room, unsurprised when no one turned to look at him. The scholars riveted to their teacher.

Sando closed the door behind Yoshi.

In the open space below, Telia paced the length of the circle floor space. Her red robes designed to hide the fact that she was pregnant. Her hair falling down her back. She was beautiful. She stood listening to a scholar’s question.

Yoshi moved to sit in an empty chair halfway down the stairs, tuning into the discussion.

“The Furian people live as though they are in a spiritual sect. How can they start having interest in the political arena now? The Furian Princess has largely stayed out of Quad politics, in the same way Lilind of the Sand has. Why are they joining the Quad council now?”

Telia nodded in thought.

“How do you know the Furian Princess has stayed out of Quad Politics? She was the first to alert the imperial court to strife in the North. She fought the first rebellion battles, and discovered the plot to assassinate the crown prince. She might not be directly in the Quad council, but she has played a large role in the wellbeing of the Quad. So my question to you is how do you define politics?”

The scholar ignored Telia’s question. “So the justification here is that the Furian people have participated in the war, so they are rewarded with a position in the Quad council.”

“Your definition of politics is quite simplified,” Telia said with a small smile. “The difference between you and me is this. I fought in the war, though I didn’t have to. I protected His Imperial Highness every step of the way. The only thought in my head through it was the return of peace. Return to my home, to quiet days watching the skies. I’m the average Furian. So you can imagine, the whole horde thinks like me. With some on the extreme, wondering, why the Furian people should keep fighting wars they don’t start.”

“We imagine if the Furian Forest decided to stay out of the war, there would be no loss to you.”

Telia turned at Yoshi’s voice, smiling hard when she spotted him.

“Yes, you are right,” Telia said, giving him a low bow that drew attention.

Yoshi sighed as the students redirected their gazes to him. Excitement rising as they recognized him. He stood then, taking the steps down to the open floor space, understanding what his mother was working to do here. Telia needed his support.

“It is true that the Furian People have rules governing their way of life. The Furian Forest has lived on for centuries, protecting magical secrets we cannot begin to understand. It is important that you remember that their views on the people living outside the Furian Forest should be considered as those of a parent looking over a child.”

“Are you saying they are concerned that the rest of the Empire will implode without their input? Isn’t that thinking too highly of themselves?” One scholar demanded.

“We think you’re forgetting that the empire has already exploded, and recovered with great help from the Furian People.”

The scholars sat back, the war so clear on their minds, it was hard not to read their thoughts.

“The Furians in the council have not been rewarded with a position in the Quad Council. It is prudent to view it as the Furian Forest finally allowing change in their ranks. The concerned parent acknowledging that the children might require more than a swift glance to continue on. We seek guidance from them, not the other way round.”

“Why does His Imperial Highness believe this?”

Yoshi turned to look at Telia not missing the spark of mischief in her eyes. She loved the debate. She wanted more time here, so he needed to help her get it.

“Why you ask?” Yoshi asked, returning his attention to the leaders of the future. “Despite their isolation, when the Empire needed help, they were first to respond. They fought, some died, others maimed and injured. Don’t you think it’s injustice to ignore an entire group of people willing to restore peace to the realm?”

“What of their beliefs? Ending their isolation could mean the Furian Forest beliefs will start spreading through the Empire.”

A young boy of fourteen stood drawing Yoshi’s attention when he almost shouted.

“Furians are born, not converted.”

Yoshi nodded, and smiled encouragement at the boy. “How do you know?”

“I’m a twin. My sister is a Furian. She was taken in by the Furian sisters when she turned five and her rage turned uncontrollable.”

“Doesn’t that mean that if Lady Telia is carrying a Princess, the Princess will end up in the Furian Forest?”

Yoshi folded his hands behind his back.

“The Princess Naria is of royal blood. She was born in the Imperial House,” he said. “You have clearly not been studying your bloodlines texts. All the information is available in the academy’s library. Scholars of the future should cultivate curiosity.”

A young girl got up in the front row, silencing the room.

“On behalf of the scholars, may I request one thing of His Imperial Highness?” she asked.

Yoshi made a show of thinking, then waved his right hand at her.

“Request shall be granted, if it is reasonable.”

She bowed her head.

“Please allow the Lady Telia to teach at the Royal Academy on a permanent basis. Only His Imperial Highness can grant this request. We would love to know more about the Furian culture.”

Yoshi turned to Telia who gave him a wide smile.

“Request granted,” Yoshi said. “Now, we must return.”

“Your Imperial Highness is kind and generous,” the whole room seemed to say at once.

Yoshi smiled, and then held out his right arm to Telia. She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm.

“Don’t tire her out though,” Yoshi said, with a small scowl. “She is carrying the future Emperor.”

The scholars burst into laughter, and he led Telia up the stairs to the door amid excited commentary from the scholars. Once outside, Yoshi led Telia to her carriage at the front of the academy.

“You’re in a good mood today,” Telia noted when they reached the carriage. “I haven’t seen you smile so hard in so long. It’s nice to see.”

Yoshi patted her hand and stepped back as Sando opened the carriage doors for her.

“The academy reminds me of my days here, learning tax laws. I was carefree then. Empire problems seemed far away.”

“They molded you well,” Telia said with a small smile. “About the Princess Naria—

“I thought you might ask. She does not speak of it, though if you go searching the history books you will find her.” Yoshi looked at the majestic royal academy buildings. “Your kind ages too slowly. Perhaps it is the fire that is flowing through your bodies. The Princess Naria was twin to Emperor Vulan, my grandfather.”

Telia gaped at the realization of how old the Princess Naria was. No wonder Almira sort her out for counsel.

“So, the Princess Naria was a twin. I did not know.”

“Her age shocks me too,” Yoshi grinned. “I dare not ask you how old you are, Lady Telia.”

“A joke, Imperial Highness,” Telia shook her head. “I’m quite young compared to Furian standards. A fledgling they would say. I was born two years before you. It is impolite to ask a lady’s age though, my dear Crown Prince.”

“Insolence,” Yoshi said, barely biting back a laugh.

Telia shook her head, and reached up to caress his jaw.

“It is really good to see you smile. Whatever made you smile this much, I hope you have it every day.”

Yoshi nodded, and watched Sando help Telia into the carriage. Once the doors closed, the carriage set off, and Yoshi stood in the academy’s front yard studying the building.

“The future does come too fast,” he murmured.

***

“Reporting to His Imperial Highness, the merchant behind the assaults and looting on the road to Fier is connected to Epang Manor. He is Prince Saki’s chamberlain, Vold. My soldiers are bringing him in now,” General Benal said in the large imperial court hall.

Yoshi touched the gold dragon on the throne chair with a sigh.

“Epang Manor,” he murmured, then allowed his gaze to take in the men and women now tasked with helping run the empire. None of them complaining even though he had called them to court in the evening.

“Ministers and lords of the quad, will we face censor if we burn Epang Manor down? Why must we suffer these people?”

Yoshi frowned when the Minister of Punishment stepped forward.

“Imperial Highness, may I suggest emptying Epang Manor and closing the estate until you’re able to gift it to another family.”

“Epang Manor is rich with Meng history. How can you leave it to rot?” Scholar Lai Tang asked.

“Epang Manor is producing more traitors than we have ever seen in centuries.” Minister of Punishment argued. “Surely, need outweighs history. There are actual people suffering under their misdeeds, Scholar Lai Tang.”

“Epang Manor has significance to the Imperial Household. It is bad enough the honors of the house are gone. How can we empty the manor and leave it bare?”

“Enough.” Yoshi raised his hand to stop their endless debate. “Scholar Lai Tang, you know the reasons why Epang Manor is without a master. We have already done what we could to preserve the blood. As for Minister, please, it feels as though we might have to endure this argument into the darkest hour of this evening. Let’s concentrate on the problem at hand. General Benal, what is taking so long with the prisoner?”

Yoshi had barely finished the sentence when Lord Hong’s officer came in with Vold. The bureau took over the moment criminals entered the palace. The General’s officers would be waiting outside the gates.

Yoshi kept his gaze on Vold.

“We have only one question. Why?”

Lord Hong forced Vold to his knees, a hand on Vold’s shoulder enough to get Vold talking.

“I was only trying to look after the servants in Epang Manor. With the Princes gone, we are left with no choice but to work to survive. I thought no one would notice if we took supplies going to refugees. So much is already heading to Fier. They owe us.”

Yoshi gripped the dragon head.

“They owe you?” Yoshi scoffed. “How interesting. Well, what worries me, Vold, is the army of mercenary you seem to have accumulated. This morning, we had the privilege of facing their swords in person. Do we also owe you?”

Vold gaped and lowered his head.

“It was not my intention to place Your Imperial Highness in danger,” Vold said, his tone begging. “Please—

“Your pleading tone is insulting. The Crown Prince offices are in charge of Epang Manor. We know that enough food and medication is going into the manor for your care. You, Vold, are trying to take advantage of the gap left in Epang Manor.”

Silence filled the court and then a soft laugh came from Vold.

“What does it matter?” Vold asked, lifting his head to glare at Yoshi. “Royalty is useless to us. We only suffer under them, and in the end gain death for our efforts. Why not take while we can? The support you offered is so little. How are we supposed to restore our reputations with what you give—?”

Lord Hong pushed Vold’s head down, stopping his tirade.

“Imperial Highness, let it be known that after initial investigation, I have uncovered that Vold has declared himself Lord of Epang Manor. The servants living there are under his cruel governance.”

Yoshi lifted his hand to stop Lord Hong already understanding the kind of man Vold was. He could only imagine how the man had escaped investigations.

“Vold, you’re charged with gross offense against refugees and the innocent.”

Lord Hong’s officers took Vold and dragged him out of the Imperial Court. Yoshi watched the rest of the ministers in the court.

“This matter has us unsettled. Reforms must be expected in this court,” Yoshi announced, not missing the glances of uneasiness in his officials. “Refugees struggling to head home have faced uncertainty, and threat of murder while under the clear protection of the Allied Council. No ministry will be left untouched.”

“We are under your command, Imperial Highness,” the court chorused.

“Lord Hong, the royal bureau shall clean Epang Manor as you did the inner court when Her Majesty requested it. We cannot be sure of the extent of Vold’s allies. Clean it up well. Scholar Lai Tang, you are tasked with the job of turning Epang Manor into a memoriam. Those left by Lord Hong shall work to conserve the details of this war, as well as the history of Meng. Let this serve as a lesson to all who dare try treason.”

Both Lord Hong and Lai Tiang accepted their tasks, and Yoshi got up from his seat.

“This court’s first main priority is to restore balance in the Empire. We shall not tolerate anyone working to contradict orders to support Fier. Let that be understood.”

***

Days went by, the stars gracing the night sky, Yoshi learning the position of each one, until he could draw the night skies during the day. With each dark moon, Yoshi worked harder to ease his longing, reading Midori’s letters turned into his favorite pastime.

On a night with bright stars, Sando came rushing into his chambers to tell him of the birth of his child. Yoshi led the way to Telia’s chambers though he could only wait outside, as the doors were closed to him. Almira joined him, her expression full of joy, she watched him pace, while she planned a festival of celebration. Five hours of hard labor for Telia, and their child came into the world with healthy cries that brought tears to Yoshi’s eyes.

“Congratulations on the birth of a son, Imperial Highness,” the Royal Physician said, when they were allowed into Telia’s chambers.

Telia was propped up on the bed, the new prince wrapped in a soft blanket in her arms. The Royal Physician took the baby from the bed and helped Yoshi hold him.

Almira came to stand next to him.

“So beautiful,” Yoshi murmured, staring at the impossibly small child in his arms.

A possessive wave of love filling him, so frightening, he imagined he would obliterate a nation to protect his son. As Emperor Vulan named him, it was his mother’s turn to name his son.

“Mom, please give him a name.”

Almira wrapped an arm around Yoshi’s shoulders, studying Yoshi’s son. She took her time, as though Yoshi didn’t know she had spent most of the past month looking for a name for her grandchild. He grinned when she looked at Telia with a nervous glance, then breathed out.

“Ayushiridara,” Almira said, her voice firm. The name strong and true. The scribes recorded it right away. “Ayu for short.”

Telia nodded her agreement. Yoshi pressed a gentle kiss on his son’s forehead.

“Ayu, welcome to the world. I am your father, Yoshi.”

***

Three days after Ayu’s birth, a gift from the Lord of Fier was delivered to the palace. Precious healing herbs for Telia’s recovery, a beautiful white jade trinket for Ayu, and a letter in a red envelope for Yoshi.

“Your Imperial Highness, you haven’t eaten this morning,” Sando said, as he handed Midori’s letter to Yoshi. “You look unwell. Won’t you take a rest? I will collect all important matters and bring them to you from the office.”

Yoshi’s gaze remained on the letter, Midori’s seal so familiar.

“Yes, Sando is right. Let’s do that,” he murmured, thinking it would allow him to read Midori’s letter in private.

Yoshi thanked Sando, and retreated to his chambers.

Yoshi,

Congratulations on the birth of a Prince. Prince Ayu is the luckiest boy in the world to have so many who already love him. I write you to offer congratulations, and to tell you of my own good news. Fier is stable once more with a future to look forward to. This would not have been possible without your help, and the allied council’s tireless commitment.

I must confess to you stories of before a time I met you. I was carefree for most of my youth, and it has come to my attention this last month that one of my dalliances with a beautiful girl resulted in a child. His name is Roan. Strong and brave, he has lived a happy life with his mother. She is of noble birth and was somehow spared the troubles brought by my father. Her father protected her and allowed the child to grow in a happy environment. They visited the Red Castle last month to pledge support for a better Fier and that was how I discovered Roan’s existence.

I hoped to travel to the capital to meet you and the Empress to discuss the future. With the news of Prince Ayu, I have delayed my journey to allow you time to enjoy Prince Ayu’s arrival.

I know the Empress plans a banquet in two months to celebrate the birth of Prince Ayu. I will wait until then to visit the capital. I love you, Yoshi. I hope the months apart have not allowed your knowledge of that to fade.

Yours,

Midori.

Yoshi closed his eyes, his heart pounding in panic. Midori had a child in Fier. Did that mean his future included staying in Fier for good? With shaking hands, Yoshi reread the letter, then dropped it on his reading table, staring at the large box in the corner filled with letters from Midori. The last one had hinted at a decision for Fier. Midori’s love for his quad was clear in his words. That love so keen, Midori was unable to meet him once even during the monthly Quad meetings sending Lenoth or Naro instead.

Was Midori choosing to stay there for good now?

The thought of Midori staying in Fier shook Yoshi to the core.

Yoshi pushed back his chair and started to get up only to suffer dizziness. He fell to the floor, weak, and lost consciousness.

***

“Quickly, get him comfortable on the bed, call the Royal Physician.”

Almira had come looking for Yoshi to ask him whether she could invite Midori to the palace early. It was only right that Midori meet Ayu first before the banquet.

She found Yoshi passed out on the red carpet in his bedroom. Her startled cry drew Sayuri and three of Yoshi’s black guard into the room. As they worked to lift Yoshi, Almira moved to Yoshi’s writing desk, taking the open letter Yoshi must have been reading. It was from Midori. She frowned, sliding the letter into her pocket.

“Close the inner palace to visitors,” Almira ordered as Sando hurried in. “Sando, tell the crown prince office that he is out of the palace to meet an emissary from Dwind. The Empire is recovering, we cannot have troubled court over his sudden illness. Where is the royal physician? How can this happen?”

Sando hurried out of Yoshi’s chambers just as the royal physicians came in. One glance at Almira had them racing to Yoshi’s side who was already comfortable in his bed. His hair free around him.

Almira watched them fuss over her son. When she saw no panic on their faces, some of the tension eased. Yoshi had been working too hard lately. Not stopping to breathe, or take a moment to rest. She knew it was because he missed Midori. Missed the Lord of Fier with such acute pain, she dared not discuss it.

Shaking her head, she got the letter from Midori from her pocket and read it, the contents unsettling her.

“Your Majesty.”

Almira looked up staring at the physicians who seemed ready to diagnose Yoshi.

“His Imperial Highness sleeps due to fatigue, and is enduring a common infection in his chest. He must have caught the infection during his visit to the capital’s market the day after Prince Ayu was born. He reported feeling tired since then, and not having an appetite last night and this morning. He must have worked through the initial symptoms. He needs uninterrupted rest and treatment.”

“No word of this outside the inner palace,” Almira ordered. “His Imperial Highness runs the government and we will not have doubt rise in the people’s minds.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Almira moved to the windows, followed by Sayuri. She sat on a chair her gaze on Midori’s letter. The contents truly worrying her. If Midori had a son, he might choose Fier over the Palace.

“Sayuri,” Almira murmured. “How do you heal a broken heart?”

“Your Majesty, there is no medicine for that, only time can ease that pain.”

Almira chuckled, shaking her head.

“You always have an answer for all my questions, Sayuri.”

“It is my duty, Your Majesty.”

Almira nodded, her gaze on Yoshi, afraid he might choose to stay sleeping to avoid the possibility of Midori staying in Fier.

“Ask Tai and Zia to come. This was my mistake, I must fix it before Yoshi overworks himself into an early grave. Tell them it’s urgent.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

***

The Red Castle, Fier

Midori stood on the highest terrace in a castle he had called home since birth. All the warm emotions that should come with that feeling were gone. Apart from his memories with his mother, all the rest, had turned cold.

Excited cheers reached him, drawing his gaze to the team of men training in the yard below. Among them, standing next to Lenoth, was his six year old son, Roan. Dark hair, beautiful smile, and a penchant for mischief that matched the Sanori clan.

Lenoth lifted the boy up, placing him on his shoulders as he ran around the training grounds.

“Your son is handsome.”

Midori turned to his left to find Princess Naria standing right beside him. Her silky skirts blew in the wind. He wanted to ask how she had gotten by his side, but he dared not. The secrets of the Furian Forest were too many.

“You have reached a decision?”

“It has not been easy.” Midori let out a sigh. “The boy has lived years without knowledge of me. The mother is marrying a noble lord. My interference is not needed. It is enough knowing he exists.”

“His bloodline is true Sanori.”

“Yes.”

“Diato’s fate was cruel, but Roan’s fate will be much easier. His parents are peace loving souls. They will nurture him well. Roan will find happiness here. And, His Imperial Highness will take special care to safeguard Roan’s birthright.”

Midori frowned, looking at the Princess Naria. He remembered Yoshi telling him once that the princess had sent Telia to him in his time of need.

“It is a gift.” Princess Naria answered his unasked question. “One you clearly needed to ease the remaining doubts in your heart. I imagine you were elated to discover that your bloodline would continue, as is Crown Prince. He worried that you might feel…incomplete without a child of your own. Now there are two sons thanks to the birth of Prince Ayu.”

“One son a prince, the other to be Lord of Fier. How lucky can I be?” Midori grinned. “You promise to watch over him?”

“I will watch over Roan. Lilind of Dwind has also promised to watch over him.” Princess Naria took in a deep breath letting it out as she leaned on the balcony to watch the men train and play with Roan below. “I love the start of peaceful times. There is so much promise in the air. Such life, it is breathtaking.”

Midori agreed with her. He couldn’t wait to reach the Palace. He was excited to report the stable status of Fier to the Imperial Court. Maybe then, he could get the Empress to let him stay in the capital.

Princess Naria hissed and straightened up from her comfortable pose. She turned around, her gaze burning red.

“Come out,” she ordered.

Midori frowned, following her gaze to see Tai and Zia emerge from the shadows. Tai’s habits always left him unsettled.

“What brings you here?” Princess Naria demanded.

“Her Majesty has a message for the Lord of Fier,” Tai said, holding out a red jade carved in the shape of a dragon. “She summons you to the palace.”

Princess Naria grabbed the red jade before Midori could touch it, her eyes closed. When she did open them, she shook her head in disappointment.

“What took you so long to come?” Princess Naria complained to Tai and Zia as she handed the red jade to Midori. “My Lord, you must head to the Capital. Your time here is over. The Crown Prince needs you.”

“Is he well?” Midori asked, turning to Tai for answers, only to have Princess Naria squeeze his elbow.

“Only you can heal what ails him. Go, My Lord, I will watch over Fier.”

***

Midori rode his horse like a man possessed. A journey made in three days turned into a day and a half. He looked ghastly when he finally arrived at the palace gates. The red jade got the gates open without question. A servant coming to meet him when he dismounted. The young man led him into a guest room, bringing him hot water and clean clothes.

The message obvious, he could not enter the inner palace in his muddied state. Midori complied feeling the faster he cleaned up the better. He needed to see Yoshi. The thought of Yoshi ill left him shaking, so he concentrated on washing off mud from what seemed like every inch of his body.

When he was ready, he came out of his room to find Sayuri, her Majesty’s most trusted chamberlain, waiting for him.

“My Lord. Please follow me,” Sayuri started down a very long corridor.

Midori followed, biting his bottom lip to keep from making unreasonable demands. The inner palace was different from the outer palace. Things were more other here, gardens bloomed in riot, halls majestic and with people working hard to keep them that way.

Sayuri led him to a separate residence apart from the main palace. The Crown Prince’s residence was ran separate now, he had almost forgotten. Yoshi was no longer living under his mother.

“Please go in,” Sayuri urged him toward closed sliding doors.

Midori ran up the steps to the door. The sliding doors opened by two guards at the entrance. He entered the main living area expecting to find Yoshi inside, only to find a quiet room.

Walking deeper into the residence, he passed a study with high walls filled with books and scrolls. Then an open space with a round table and chairs. Midori imagined it a meeting room of sorts. Walking down the corridor, he found closed sliding doors, with a dragon etched on the surface. Sliding them open, he stopped short when he saw Yoshi sitting on the floor in his bedroom, his back resting against the farthest wall. A heavy blanket over his shoulders, his hair a wild mess around him.

“Yoshi?” Midori rushed to his side, only to stop when he saw the letters spread out on the floor around Yoshi. Sweeping hair out of Yoshi’s face, Midori realized Yoshi was asleep. “Oh, Yoshi.”

Midori pressed his palm to Yoshi’s forehead, shaking his head when it felt too warm. He crouched down beside Yoshi and carefully lifted him in his arms, carrying him to the large bed. Covering Yoshi with heavy blankets, Midori made sure he was comfortable, before hurrying back to the scattered letters. They were the letters he had sent to Yoshi. He recognized each one. They looked well read like an old book endures consistent turns.

Midori took the letters to a writing table in the corner.

He returned to the bed and sat watching Yoshi sleep. When he could stand it no longer, he climbed into the bed and pulled Yoshi into his arms, holding him tight as he had wished to do for a year.

***

Warmth seeped into his very bones, the incessant chill of his common infection stilled for a moment. Yoshi took in a deep breath, reveling in the comfort for the first time in days. His chest still felt congested, but he felt like he could endure if the warmth persisted. Had Sando started the furnace?

He shifted, and arms tightened around him.

Yoshi pushed the covers away in surprise, turning to his back to find Midori lying next to him. Dark lashes curled over soft skin, dark hair falling around Midori’s face. Ever the wild man, Yoshi felt tears sting his eyes. He shifted until he lay staring at Midori.

What a cruel dream he was having.

His heart unable to stop rejoicing at the sight of Midori beside him. How he had missed this face. How he had longed for Midori, even the letters Midori sent him left him emptier with each month gone.

Yoshi, thinking he was hallucinating, brought his hand up to caress Midori’s face, if only to feel him even if it was a dream. When his hands touched warm flesh, he bit his lip to keep tears at bay.

Then, Midori opened his eyes, and he stared into dark eyes.

“Yoshi.”

Hearing his name for the first time in months had Yoshi closing his eyes, tears slipping out.

Midori shifted closer and pressed his lips to Yoshi’s eyes, kissing away the tears.

“My love.”

Yoshi moved into Midori’s arms, and held him tight, burying his face into Midori’s shoulder.

“You’re real.”

“I would hope so,” Midori murmured into his ear with a chuckle. “You had me worried. I rode here faster than a wraith terrified of what I would find.”

“I—,” Yoshi broke off, holding Midori’s solid form against him. Snuggling in deeper, unable to comprehend that this was happening. “We’re in the palace, aren’t we?”

“In the crown prince’s household,” Midori confirmed.

“I’m not dreaming then.”

“No.”

Yoshi nodded and took in Midori’s clean scent. Then before he could ask another question, Midori shifted back and took his lips in a breathtaking kiss that silenced all his doubts. Yoshi held on to Midori refusing to break their kiss even for a second.

They stayed locked in each other’s arms until a call from outside announced the arrival of the Royal Physician. It was time for Yoshi’s medicine. Yoshi wanted to ignore it, but Midori wouldn’t allow it.

“You have to take care of your health,” Midori insisted, letting him go.

“I don’t want to,” Yoshi grumbled as Midori climbed out of the bed. “This is the only way I can get you to come to the palace. Isn’t it? You’ll only visit me when I’m ill. Otherwise, you’re to stay in Fier looking after Roan. Isn’t that what you couldn’t tell me?”

“What?” Midori stopped in the middle of the room staring at him, he looked surprised, but Yoshi could not bear the heartbreak anymore.

“Your last letter—

“My last letter said I was coming to the capital to seek audience with the Imperial Court. I wanted to report that Fier is stable.”

“Yes.” Yoshi scoffed. “So stable, I need not worry about an heir for you anymore. Roan’s mother must be very lucky. No need to tell me your decision. I’ll find a way to endure it.”

“Yoshi, whatever are you talking about?”

“Imperial Highness, it is time for your medicine.” The call came from outside.

“Oh, go away with the bloody medicine,” Yoshi roared, earning gasps from his staff.

Midori shook his head, and headed out to door. He slid the doors open and took the tray from the startled physician. The man could not return to the kitchens with a full bowl of medicine. That much Midori knew, so the physician would wait until Yoshi drank his medicine.

Midori closed the door and returned to Yoshi’s bed. He sat on the side of the bed, holding the bowl, his gaze on a fuming Yoshi.

“So, you’re angry with me.” Midori guessed. “For a decision you think I’ve made.”

When Yoshi refused to look at him, Midori hid a smile, realizing Yoshi was jealous. He decided to test his theory.

“Roan is a handsome boy. His mother is very lucky to have him, as am I.”

Yoshi clutched his covers, tears trailing down his cheeks. Midori couldn’t stand it.

“Roan’s mother is married to a man she calls the love of her life. A handsome noble lord who has accepted the mandate to act as proxy leader until Roan reaches majority. The Princess Naria has promised to check on them often. She says Roan will have a happy life.”

Yoshi’s fingers gentled on the covers, and Midori smiled.

“Their happiness left me wanting to reach out for my own ahead of schedule, Yoshi. If I have to stay in the capital until your mother allows me to enter the palace, then I will.”

Yoshi turned to face him at last, with a quick swipe of his fingers over his eyes to wipe away his tears. Midori glanced down at the concoction of herbs to give him a moment to compose himself.

“You need to drink this,” Midori said after a minute passed. “I promise to stay even when you’re better, Yoshi.”

Yoshi let go of the covers and took the bowl. He swallowed it all in one gulp, grimacing through the experience. Midori took the bowl from him and placed it on the tray. He took the empty bowl to the waiting physician and closed the door after he got a grateful bow from the flustered man.

“How is it possible for a crown prince to be jealous?” Midori asked, when he returned to Yoshi’s side. “Yoshi, you really shatter my expectations.”

Yoshi sat up straighter, smoothing the covers, color returning to his cheeks.

“Midori.”

“Hmm?”

Yoshi bit his lip for a moment, before he reached out and took Midori’s right hand.

“Sometime, in the very close future, may I meet Roan?”

Midori brought Yoshi’s hand to his lips, pressing a warm kiss on Yoshi’s right wrist.

“Only if I get to meet Ayu first.”

Yoshi laughed and the sound of it filled Midori with joy.

Yoshi held on to his hand, not willing to let go even when he grew drowsy. Midori helped him settle down when he finally fell asleep, and sat in a comfortable chair waiting for Yoshi to wake up again.

****

Almira came to check on Yoshi when it was time for the midday meal. Midori greeted her with a bow when she entered Yoshi’s bedroom. Her elated smile eased his wary heart, the red jade dragon still held tight in his left hand.

Almira checked Yoshi’s temperature, pressing her palm to his forehead, then sitting on the side of the bed to watch Yoshi sleep.

“Thank you for coming. He has not been happy, and once he fell ill, I worried he might stay in bed too long.”

Almira stood and pulled the covers to Yoshi’s chin.

“Why don’t we talk in the outer room, Lord Midori? We have much to discuss.”

Midori followed her to the living area, waiting until she sat in an arm chair before he chose a long couch facing her.

“You look well.” Almira started.

“Thanks to your grace,” Midori said. “I’m grateful for your support, because of it, Fier has recovered.”

“Fier has recovered.” Almira agreed. “Still, I’m afraid my decision to push you away has left Crown Prince a drift. After he fell ill, I asked Sayuri to bring me his daily records and it seems as though all he has done since you left is work like a tireless tilling horse. Sleeping late, waking up too early, doing all he can to be a strong leader.”

“He is strong.”

“Yes, there is no denying that.” Almira sighed. “Was it not for your letter, I would never have noticed he was struggling. Lady Telia mentioned it more than once, but I assumed she was overly concerned. Pregnant women are overly sensitive. I should have listened to her. Your letter pushed Crown Prince overboard two days ago.”

“I told him I had reached a decision about Fier’s future,” Midori said.

“I read the letter you sent him. It suggested you’re staying in Fier. I sent Tai and Zia to you, hoping to find a solution. Yoshi loves you enough to let you go,” Almira said. “I imagine he has endured everyday this year with the promise of your return, but when that promise seemed on the verge of disappearing…”

“He over thought the situation. I wanted to seek your permission to name Roan heir to Fier. Roan’s parents are noble and are willing to act as proxy until Roan is of age. With the birth of Prince Ayu, I postponed my request, thinking it better to celebrate the prince’s birth.”

“Oh.” Almira smiled in understanding. “That leaves you free to return to the palace, oh, why didn’t you write that in your letter? I would have passed an edict to that effect right away.”

Midori gaped at her.

“I’m not blind, Lord Midori. Only a fool would imagine you two can live without each other.”

“Her Majesty is no fool,” Midori was quick to say.

She chuckled, and let out a relieved breath.

“I trust in your plans for Fier, Lord Midori. In turn, I ask you to bring back the Crown Prince’s laugh. I miss it very much.”

***

Midori stayed in the Crown Prince’s residence as an honored guest after that. The royal physician would not allow Yoshi to visit Ayu and Telia. So, Almira offered to take Midori to visit Telia’s hall, which was a building a walking distance behind the crown prince’s residence.

Almira led the way into the smaller residence, smiling at the ladies in waiting tasked with taking care of Telia and Prince Ayu.

“Lady Telia, I brought you a visitor,” Almira said, when she entered Telia’s living space.

Midori grinned when Telia, who was lounging back on a couch, sat up in shock. Tears filled her eyes. She got up and raced to Midori, pulling him into a tight hug. Almira chuckled, perching on an armchair as the ladies in the room hurried out to give them privacy.

“Shh…”Midori soothed, rubbing his hand down Telia’s back. “It’s not good for you to be upset, Telia. Your face will turn all blotchy. Who has seen a Furian cry? You are also showing me a new picture.”

“I don’t get blotchy,” Telia denied, punching his shoulder, as she stepped back, wiping her tears away. “What took you so long? Huh? Do you know how hard it has been? Watching him pretend to be happy, watching him take care of me, while he worried about you. I could do nothing for him. What the hell took you so long?”

Midori brought his hands up in surrender.

“Don’t burn me, Lady Telia. I was wrong. I should have come home earlier.”

Telia stared at him in surprise, then as though realizing the Empress was still around, she gasped and turned to face Almira.

“Forgive me, Your Majesty.” Telia bowed her head, sliding an accusing glance at Midori.

Almira chuckled and sitting back in her chair.

“I should have requested Lord Midori’s presence here sooner. Life has gotten so lively. Yoshi jokes, and Lady Telia has shown me another side of her.”

Telia blushed and urged Midori to sit. She hurried off to the inner rooms and returned a few minutes later holding Ayu. She brought him to Midori.

Midori took the baby, nervous energy coursing through him at the thought of dropping the fragile creature wrapped in a heavy green blanket. Telia chuckled making sure Midori held him right.

“Lord Midori, meet Prince Ayu. The calmest baby in the empire,” Telia murmured.

Ayu was awake. His eyes the color of honey, like his father. He smiled and dimples appeared in his cheeks, turning Midori into mush. A surge of protective instinct filled him and he held Ayu closer, staring at Ayu’s sweet face.

“He is beautiful,” Midori murmured.

Telia patted his shoulder and sat down to chat with Almira, leaving him to bond with the youngest member of the family.

***

In a bid to keep the Imperial Household happy, Almira insisted on appearing at court on the day Midori was to report Fier’s status. She sat as the head of court, as Yoshi was still confined to his residence. The quad leaders were in attendance, with the exception of Princess Naria who was in Fier, as well as the new ministers and their officers. Midori walked up to the front of the full imperial court.

Midori knelt before Almira and presented a gold scroll that Sando took and handed to Almira.

“Lord of Fier reporting to Her Imperial Majesty, the Fier Quad is at peace. Commerce has returned to normal, and the quad’s government is running as it should. This servant is grateful for all the assistance granted to Fier by the Imperial Court. Without it, we would not have managed to return to normal so soon.”

“Lord of Fier, rise. We commend your efforts in restoring peace,” Almira said, holding the scroll he had presented. “And for your loyalty to the Empire. We wish to award your efforts.”

“Her Imperial Majesty is gracious,” Midori said, rising to his feet and bowing his head in respect.

“Lord Midori, you are not married yet. I wish to play matchmaker for you,” Almira said. “What do you think of this?”

Midori bit back his laugh as murmurs filled the court, and speculation rose.

“I would be honored, Your Majesty.”

“Good. Crown Prince has also played too long with no partner to call his. He might have a concubine, but I wish he would find someone to share his heavy burdens. Seeing you lead Fier into peace, I naturally think that you’re a good candidate for him,” Almira said, gauging the court’s murmurs. “I brought the matter up with Crown Prince and he has no objection.”

When no one protested her intentions, Almira looked at Midori.

“The Empire is once again at the dawn of peace. In celebration, the Imperial House shall admit a new member. His Imperial Highness wishes to marry you. Lord Midori, do you accept his proposal?”

Midori couldn’t hide his joy, making Lady Tinya and Lady Pipa chuckle with knowing smiles.

“I accept, Your Majesty,” Midori said.

“Then, we grant this marriage. His Imperial Highness, Crown Prince shall wed Lord Midori in four days.”

Midori bowed his head again happy to have his dreams finally come true.

After court, it was hard to get away as ministers and officials vied for his audience, wanting to introduce themselves. It was late afternoon when Midori returned to Yoshi’s residence. He found Yoshi in the study, reading at his desk.

“I’m very sure the royal physician ordered rest for you.” Midori leaned on the door, folding his arms against his chest.

“You took too long,” Yoshi complained. “How was court?”

“Exhausting,” Midori answered. “Lots of officials wanting to get a word in. It will take me some time to get their names straight.”

Yoshi chuckled.

“I’ve been hard on them. They hope you will ease my wrath.”

Midori pushed off the door and moved to sit in the chair across Yoshi.

“We’re to wed in four days. Your mother does not joke when she makes a decision.”

“Are you scared?” Yoshi asked, tilting his head to the side to study Midori’s face.

“A bit,” Midori replied. When he saw a cloud of disappointment appear in Yoshi’s gaze, he smiled. “I’m scared of my new position, but happy because it gives me you, all the time.”

Yoshi returned his smile.

“There is no fear for me. I’m just happy to have you,” Yoshi admitted.

Midori stood from his chair, and went around to Yoshi’s side, pulling him up from his chair. He pressed Yoshi to sit on the table, grinning when Yoshi spread his legs making space for him.

Midori removed the gold hair pin holding Yoshi’s hair at the top of his head, and sunk his fingers into the soft strands. Using Yoshi’s hair to tilt his head back.

“They should know,” Midori murmured into Yoshi’s ear as he pressed hot kisses along sensitive skin on Yoshi’s neck.

“What?” Yoshi asked, his hands bunching Midori’s collar.

“I only want the right to hold you like this,” Midori said, sucking on Yoshi’s neck hard, bringing up a red mark which he studied with satisfaction. “If I could, I would lock you in here with me, never to let you go.”

Yoshi closed his eyes, tilting his head to allow Midori access.

“I would let you, Midori.”

***

Red flowers, pieces of red paper, and fabric rained down the path to the palace. The golden gates stood open for the first time in decades. Midori watched the festivities from the safety of a carriage waiting outside the capital gates.

“Are you nervous?” Lenoth asked him peering out at the crowds who had come to witness a royal wedding. “It feels like the whole Empire is lining the streets.”

“I’m not nervous,” Midori answered in a calm tone.

He sat dressed in red ceremonial robes. The red cloak on his shoulders embroidered with a golden phoenix. Midori couldn’t help thinking of the phoenix on Yoshi’s back. How striking it was when he first saw it in a bath house in the middle of a village on the outskirts of the Furian forest.

Had he known then their meeting would lead him here?

He wanted to think so.

Yoshi now waited for him in the Palace’s ceremony hall. Midori grinned. In an hour, Yoshi would be his to keep for life. Nerves, ha, one would say he was too eager. So eager, he wondered if the censors would chastise him if he ran the path to Yoshi.

“It’s time,” Sando said, opening the carriage doors and looking into the carriage. “I will guide you through all the steps of the ceremony.”

“Except the last,” Midori said, as Sando helped him arrange heavy weeping cloak behind him.

Sando and Lenoth laughed.

“His Imperial Highness said the same thing.”

Sando took a step back when he was done, and bowed in respect.

“Allow me to be the first to congratulate you, Imperial Consort, Prince Midori. Live a long time in happiness with His Imperial Highness.”

Midori smiled and squeezed Sando’s shoulder.

“Thank you, Sando.” Midori waved his hand ahead. “Now, why don’t you lead the way?”

The procession into the palace took too long. Midori was plagued with impatience, though he fought it down, keeping decorum. The red flowers were endless, the excitement infectious. The moment he entered the palace’s throne room, his gaze stayed riveted on Yoshi who stood waiting at the end of the long aisle waiting for him.

When he reached him, Midori took Yoshi’s hand and climbed up the dais facing the Empress. Together they knelt, hands held tight as the head magistrate tied a red string around their hand joined hands.

“We are gathered here to witness and celebrate the marriage between Crown Prince Yoshinori Taimeng, and Lord Midori Sanori. In marriage, they promise to love, honor and trust each other as partners who wish to live the rest of their lives walking the same path. They will share their longings, dreams, their joys, desires, sorrows and burdens, and help each other through the long journey ahead.”

Midori squeezed Yoshi’s hand, smiling when Yoshi looked at him.

“Midori Sanori, will you take Yoshinori Taimeng to be your lawful husband? Will you love, comfort, honor and protect him until death do you part?”

“I will.”

“Yoshinori Taimeng, will you take Midori Sanori to be your lawful husband? Will you love, comfort, honor and protect him until death do you part?”

“I will.”

“Until now, Yoshinori and Midori have walked a path as separate and alone. From this day on, and every day after, they days will be shared and spent as one. By the power enthroned in me, by the Empire of Amana, I now pronounce them husband and husband. You may rise as one.”

Midori gripped Yoshi’s hand, helping him up, a wave of joy filling him. He pulled Yoshi into his arms and kissed him, much to the delight of their audience who clapped and whistled. Only quieting down when Midori broke the kiss and Almira stood from her throne. Sayuri brought her a tray with a crown made of two gold strands, embedded with precious red jade. Almira came to stand before Midori, taking the crown and holding it up.

“On this day, I bestow you the title of Imperial Prince Consort, as you stand beside His Imperial Highness, placing the welfare and wellbeing of the people before yours.”

Midori bent the knee before her, allowing her to place the crown on his head. When he stood, Midori was now Imperial Consort, Prince Midori, and it had never felt so good.

The following hours were long, enduring a banquet with all the nobles and officials. Toasting, and eating for a prosperous future. Through it, Midori held on to Yoshi’s hand, eager to get him alone.

He took his first easy breath when they entered the inner palace in the late evening. Yoshi relaxed and the Empress left them to their own devices. Yoshi stopped him on their way to Telia’s chambers and kissed him hard.

“When do we leave for your house?” Midori asked, holding Yoshi against his body, ready to be alone.

“After we visit with Telia,” Yoshi said, trailing kisses along Midori’s jaw.

“Let’s hurry then,” Midori firmly pushed Yoshi away and took his hand, leading him to Telia’s chambers.

Telia stood waiting for them outside. When she saw them, she hugged Midori, then Yoshi, leaning up to press a kiss on his cheek.

“I’m so happy for you,” she murmured.

“Let’s go inside, Telia,” Yoshi urged.

Midori led them into the warm living area, grinning with joy when he saw Ayu sleeping in his cot. Midori let go of Yoshi’s hand, to pick up the little boy. Raining kisses on his forehead as he cuddled him close, enjoying the weight of him. When Yoshi came to his side, wrapping an arm around his waist, Midori smiled and looked at the love of his life.

“Thank you, Yoshi,” Midori murmured, “for this extraordinary life you have gifted me. I love you.”

“I love you more,” Yoshi said, caressing Ayu’s cheek with a finger.

***

Epilogue

The Imperial Household returned to peaceful times.

The Crown Prince was often found in the Imperial Court, taking the court officials through their paces. He was strict, demanding fair policies for all the people in the Empire of Amana. Trade with Dwind flourished with Lady Pipa’s constant determination, glass from Dwind earned a new respect from the people. Terra opened up to the rest of the Quad, allowing scholars to visit their vast libraries, and young people to train in their military camps. Earith shared their masonry skills, while Fier prospered thanks to the efforts of both The Crown Prince and Prince Consort.

The Prince Consort helped the Empire build a formidable military, training them personally when he could. He and Lord Hong Ma developed a true friendship on the merit of protecting the Imperial Household to their fullest potential. His most exciting day recorded was when Roan of Fier visited the palace, and Crown Prince hugged the young boy asking Roan to think of him as a father. Roan was so honored that he bowed to the Crown Prince and pledged his loyalty. In time, the Crown Prince and Roan would turn into great friends.

On adventurous days, they would both leave the palace and visit the royal academy to listen to Lady Telia speak to the scholars, never interfering unless she asked for it.

On quiet days, Crown Prince and Prince Consort would spend their time with Prince Ayu, and Lady Telia playing and watching the young prince learn his lessons from Scholar Lai Tang and Teng Heim. Joined by Tai, and Zia, other times by the Empress herself.

When Prince Ayu was occupied elsewhere, Crown Prince and Prince Consort strolled the vast gardens of the inner palace. They rode their horses on open fields in the Imperial Lands, and sneaked off to a secret place no one knew but the Black Guard and the Empress, of course.

The hardest day they faced was Lady Telia’s departure from the palace.

Her heavy longing for the Furian Forest and The Princess Naria could not be healed with simple words. Yoshi tried everything to ease Lady Telia’s heart until he could do nothing but let her go. In return for the gift she had given him in Prince Ayu, he forced the palace censors to retain her title. Promising her and the Furian Forest, that Lady Telia would remain part of the imperial family.

Prince Ayu was five when he had to face his mother leaving the palace. Prince Consort and Crown Prince showered him with extra love from that day on to ease the wide gap left by his mother. Prince Ayu often visited the Furian Forest to see his mother, and when he was old enough, The Princess Naria gifted him with a black stallion.

Eight years after Telia’s departure, the Empress Almira abdicated her throne, naming Yoshi, Emperor and Midori, Emperor’s Consort.

Amana grew in peace, bringing in great fortune for those who dared call the Empire home.

In time, Emperor Yoshinori Taimeng came to be known as the Sage Emperor.

***

The End.

And so, Prince Yoshi and Midori take their bow. I feel elated and somewhat sad, but still excited...wow! Thank you to all of you who have read and loved this story through the years. And for your immense patience, as you waited for each chapter. Thank you so much.
Always,😘
Sui.
2012 lilansui
  • Like 12
  • Love 30
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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

👏🏾🙌🏽👏🏾🙌🏽👏🏾🙌🏽Great story I write beautiful stories read all of them u are a great writer loved it congratulations 

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment

A fitting and happy ending to this simply amazing story. Your characters were multi faceted with great depth. The story grabbed my attention from chapter one through the ending. There were plenty of twists and unexpected turns along the way. The emotions and dialogue were believable and heartfelt. I’ve laughed and cried, been very angry and extremely sad throughout the story. I’m really sorry to have this story end. 💧 I’ve loved these people and their story. Thank you so very much for creating such a great piece of literature. I look forward to the next story you will create! 😃❤️

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment

I enjoyed this story so much. Such an epic! Great characters.

 

 I was surprised Yoshi and Telia didn’t have more kids. I was also surprised that Yoshi tried to keep Telia at the palace — he was without his love for a year and fell apart while Telia was gone for FIVE!! 

 

The wedding vows were suspiciously modern, BTW.  LOLLLLL

 

I look forward to what you give us next. Your voice and subjects are refreshingly different.

Edited by Geemeedee
  • Like 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
14 hours ago, Geemeedee said:

wedding vows were suspiciously modern, BTW.  

Went to a wedding recently and as they said their vows, I found the concept of the words so beautiful....so I took some liberties..😎:gikkle:

Yoshi would have tried to keep Telia at the palace for Ayu, hehehe...Thank you, Geemeedee!

 

On 6/22/2018 at 6:01 AM, flesco said:

I’ve loved these people and their story.

Yoshi and Midori are truly a pair that had me thinking of them for as long as I've been on this site I think.  At times we had a push-pull relationship....there was a chunk of time there where I would just stare at a blank screen, and wonder if I could end it faster, but I suppose this is where we were heading, so, me too, Flesco.  

On 6/21/2018 at 8:37 PM, Onim said:

Thank you for sharing!!! 

Thank you Onim! You pushed me on so much, so I'm also grateful to you!

 

@Sussins Thank you so much!!!

 

On 6/21/2018 at 5:19 AM, mutch71 said:

Thank you 🙏

You're very welcome.  I'm so glad to share.

On 6/20/2018 at 10:00 PM, Sweetlion said:

Roan also visited the palace often, and developed a brotherly relationship with Ayu.

Yes, I imagine that as well.  Roan and Ayu, the future Midori and Yoshi, with adventurese of their time...a story for another time. Thank you Sweetlion!

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment

A most interesting tale, with well rounded characters and mighty adventures, Yoshi would make a very enjoyable movie and game, so many possibilities, thank you Sui for sharing your talents 😊

Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    Sign Up and get an occasional Newsletter.  Fill out your profile with favorite genres and say yes to genre news to get the monthly update for your favorite genres.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..