Jump to content
    lilansui
    • Author
  • 8,456 Words
  • 4,049 Views
  • 14 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. 

The Reluctant Consort - 33. Extra 3 - Laner Visits Sun-filled Manor

Laner Visits Silver Shore Valley

Two weeks after the Emperor’s visit at Sun-filled Manor, Rashan asked his parents to move out of his chambers. He was turning twelve in a month. Jihan’s first instinct was to say no, but he deferred to Kastan, so they listened to Rashan’s reasoning.

Kiyan had requested for Yan and Yija to remain at Sun-filled Manor. This way they could study with Rashan without interruptions like in the palace. Kastan and Jihan agreed to watch out for them as long as Kiyan agreed that his sons had to live in the same way as their family did. Kiyan gave his consent. In the spirit of the moment, Kyra felt that her son, Byul, would benefit from this idea. She too left her son to Kastan and Jihan on a tryout basis. They were all very young yet, and needed to learn a lot to defend themselves.

And so, three princes moved in to the auxiliary house, living with their Grandpa. Rashan found that he wanted to join his cousins, which was why he wanted to move out of his chambers.

Kastan, thinking it was a perfect way for the princes to bond, agreed to Rashan’s request.

Jihan followed Kastan’s decision but with reservations. He refused to undo Rashan’s chambers and kept them intact, only moving essentials to Rashan’s new room in the auxiliary house.

“In case Rashan ever wants to move back,” Jihan said, when Kastan asked.

Aoi followed her master and Jihan made sure her rooms were fully furnished to avoid inconveniences in a house full of men.

In the end, four princes: Rashan, Byul, Yan and Yija all lived in the auxiliary house.

Jihan worked with Soraya and Yasmin to run the household of cute princes separate, including meals and baths. He only insisted on the four boys having their evening meal at the main dining hall. To report on their days, air any grievances or celebrate wins, and give the three new princes a chance to get to know their uncles, Kastan and Jihan.

In a blink, Jihan found himself helping to parent four boys.

He listened to complaints on training mishaps from Yan and Byul. Mediated competitive fights between Rashan and Yija, hugged Yan when he cried from missing his mother. He worried over Byul when the boy got sick from eating unfamiliar foods. It was a full house, and he loved every minute of it.

Most of all, Jihan enjoyed watching the boys sit at their dining table in the evening, talking with excitement about their many daily adventures. It was a different family from his own. He didn’t remember having meals with his parents when he was Rashan’s age. There was only Andiya to sit with him, and when they were apart, there would be Firuz. This large family setting was a wonderful gain and he wanted to hold on to it for as long as possible.

Neith jumped on the dining table, and Jihan pushed his chair back in protest.

“No, you don’t get to sit on the dining table, Neith,” Jihan said, hurrying to get the tiger cub when she would not get off the dining table.

The boys chuckled, amused as Jihan and Firuz both tried to get a hold of the tiger cub and it would slink away, finally Firuz won and Jihan let out a huff at Neith’s bad habits. He gained laughs from the boys and a hearty laugh from Kastan for his efforts.

*~*~*~*~*

The aftermath of Lord Revi’s trial and execution was brutal on Lord Duyi Kamran. Fear filled him as a purge of Lord Revi’s people began. He closed the gates to Kamran Manor and refused to allow visitors. He was afraid to step out of the compound. Afraid someone would point out that he had been looking to associate with Lord Revi.

Zure Niven no longer agreed to see him. Niven was no longer available at The Green. Instead, he spent most of his time in his official manor a few blocks away from the palace. It was harder to meet him there, too many eyes. Everyone now watched what Zure Niven was doing these days because he was becoming a powerful courtier.

When Duyi wrote him a note, Zure Niven replied with one suggestion.

That Duyi should move to the lands gifted to him as the Viscount of Gamo.

Laner knew her husband was facing a crisis when he told her one morning that he should have listened to her.

The Capital was alive with news of the princes of Silver Shore Valley. Jihan and Kastan had gained fame after they brought Lord Revi to justice. They even dared to bring down the Empress proving her treasonous attempts.

Duyi sighed and pulled the blanket around him higher. He slept on the long couch in his study, unsure what he should do next. The door opened and he stiffened afraid his butler was announcing a visitor. He avoided those like the plague these days. He lived in fear that Zure Niven would send the Royal Investigative Bureau after him.

“Duyi,” Laner’s voice interrupted his morbid thoughts.

Duyi relaxed, pulling the covers down as he sat up to see his wife in traveling robes. The simple traveling overcoat designed to hide her station.

“I’m leaving now,” Laner said.

“Where are you going?” Duyi asked, wondering why he had no information on his wife leaving. Why did she look like she was going on a long journey?

“I’m going to see my grandchild,” Laner said, with a pleased smile. “I’ll do my best to make it up to Andiya. My daughter gave birth without me and I’m not happy about that, so I’m going to change our relationship.”

Duyi sighed. He certainly did not want to visit Kamran Estate. Jihan would have the right to gloat over him. It was better to visit his new lands in Gamo.

“Fine, but you won’t find me here when you get back,” Duyi said in a decisive tone. "I’ll be in Gamo.”

“Duyi,” Laner said, her smile brightening even more. “I’ll be at Kamran Estate a while anyway. You do what you want, when you’re willing, you’ll find us at Kamran Estate.”

Duyi blinked as Laner turned and left the study, closing the door with a finality.

*~*~*~*~*

Laner traveled in a carriage arranged by Garren from the Eagle’s Claw. Her escort was Bahir, Jihan’s man at the manor. He did not want to remain at the manor, so he requested to watch out for Laner on her journey. He wanted a chance to talk to Jihan on his next task.

Laner agreed as having Bashir along gave her confidence to take on the long journey.

Laner squeezed the red jade token she held tight. She sat in the carriage, the curtains drawn slightly, leaving only space for sunlight and fresh air. Bahir sat at the front with their driver. He knew that Laner wanted to stop by Silver Shore Valley before heading to Kamran Estate. Garren had promised that Jihan would be home, so she wanted to try to see him, even if it was for a short while.

The carriage turned onto the road leading to Silver Shore Valley and she caught sight of the new trade station. She had heard that Jihan helped build the growing trade station, and it was gaining popularity in the Empire. The inn here was said to have the best tea in the area. She suddenly wanted to try that tea, but she felt an urgent need to see Jihan first, so they kept going.

She brought honey jars for Jihan’s house. She did not know what to get for Prince Kastan and Prince Rashan. She would ask Jihan what they liked when they met.

The carriage came to a stop and she looked out to stare at the massive gates leading into Silver Shore Valley. The massive pillars on each side of the entrance were enough to intimidate a body.

“Where to?” an Officer asked, stepping closer to Bahir, and tapping on the carriage. “How many people are in the carriage?”

“One,” Bahir said. “We’re heading to the red gates.”

Laner hoped the phrase would work. Garren told them to say their destination was the red gates. She glanced at the red token she held and wondered if it had something to do with Jihan’s home.

“Do you have approval?” the officer asked. “Otherwise, I’ll have to refer you to our main station. Visitors going to the red gates are regulated.”

Laner pushed the curtains open drawing the officer’s attention. She showed him the red jade token and he reached for it. She gave it to him, and watched his eyes widen in recognition. He handed it back and saluted her with his right hand to his chest.

“Apologies for the delay, My Lady. I’ll find someone to escort you right away,” the officer said, turning away and breaking into a run.

In minutes, they had a man riding on a horse leading the way to the red gates, as they called them.

Red gates to match her red jade token, Laner assumed.

The ride to the red gates gave her a view of the world her son called home. The carriage left the main town behind, taking a private road to a pair of large black gates. The carriage stopped, and Laner was asked to show her red token to the guards at the black gate. After which, they all gave her a salute, and the gates were opened. The carriage did not stop again until it was standing at the Duke’s Office.

Bahir got off the carriage then, following their guide into the busy office.

Laner sat in the carriage marveling at the effort to find her son. She was happy to feel no sense of impatience. She was under no illusions with Jihan. She knew that her visit to Kamran Estate would be easier if she kept a closer relationship with him. Their current state was her fault. She could only hope to mend some of the damage.

Pulling back the curtain so that she could watch for Bahir, she frowned and amended her last thought.

She hoped Jihan would give her the chance to fix the damage between them. If he was unwilling…

Laner’s frown deepened. What would she do if he was unwilling? She had not stopped to think about that.

“Lady Kamran.”

Laner shook off her worry and focused on the tall, bulky man standing before her in dark robes embroidered with silver snarling tigers on the hems.

“General Moran greets Lady Kamran. We were not aware that you were coming, forgive any inconveniences. His Grace, Duke Silver, is out on a training mission. The Imperial Consort is handling matters in a nearby farm. I have sent messengers to alert them of your arrival. I will lead you to Sun-filled Manor in person.”

“I can go alone, no need—”

Laner started to protest, not about to make a whole general act as her guide, but he gave her no chance. With a snap of his fingers, two messenger horses rode out, and General Moran then took charge of the carriage, guiding it to massive red gates beyond the office. She could only sit back in mortified silence.

Minutes later, Laner followed General Moran up the steps to the front door. Behind her, Bahir spoke to the attendant General Moran had assigned to their carriage. Laner hoped Bahir would remember that she wanted to keep going to Kamran Estate and alert the attendant.

She stopped behind General Moran when he knocked on the massive front door of Sun-Filled Manor. A young woman opened the door in minutes, her smile wide and welcoming when she saw General Moran.

“Why are you knocking, General Moran? Duke Silver granted you permission to walk in at will. He hopes you’ll feel comfortable to join the family for meals like Lord Temu and Lord Naveed.”

“I remember, Soraya,” General Moran said. “I knocked because the manor has an important guest. Lady Laner Kamran is here to see His Grace.”

Soraya opened the door wider and stepped out to see behind General Moran.

“Afternoon,” Laner said, smiling at the young woman. “Apologies for coming unannounced like this.”

“Don’t apologize, My Lady,” Soraya said, giving her an elegant curtsy.

Soraya was truly a pretty girl, dressed in a neat purple work dress, her hair held in a knot. She stepped to the side of the door.

“Please, come in, Lady Kamran. Welcome to Sun-filled Manor,” Soraya said.

General Moran smiled at Laner and she took the chance to thank him for bringing her to the door. She then entered an elegant front hall and stood clutching her bag, as she listened to Soraya and General Moran.

“I’ve sent messengers to the Commander, and His Grace,” General Moran said. “The Little Prince is with His Grace. You take care of our guest until they can get back.”

“Don’t worry, General,” Soraya said, flashing him a smile, before she closed the door. Soraya then turned to Laner.

“Lady Kamran, as you’ve heard, His Grace is not at home at the moment. He should be home soon. Would you like to freshen up first, and then you can have a cup of tea after?” Soraya asked.

“I’d love that very much,” Laner said, as she took in the bright hallway.

Her son’s home was stunning. Polished wood floors, the walls adorned with impressive paintings of victorious battle scenes, racing horses and a Silver Shore Valley landscape. Double doors opened to her right into what looked like a formal meeting room. Sunlight streamed in to the large room from the many windows.

Soraya urged her forward and Laner followed, her steps slow as they reached a neat white stone garden bathed in sunlight. Laner stopped to look up, staring at the clean glass and the blue sky beyond. It was a slice of the outside pouring into the house.

Sun-filled Manor, how appropriate, Laner smiled.

*~*~*~*~*

Rashan wanted to ask his Papa an important question, but there seemed to be no time to ask it. They were at the Antac Farm. A large batch of herbs were ready to harvest and his Papa was overseeing the drying processes and helping formulate how to pack them. Rashan picked up a basket filled with rosemary sprigs and carried it up the hill as his Master Firuz wanted. Behind him, Aoi carried two baskets, keeping up with him.

Rashan spied Firuz leaning against an apple tree. It was the perfect spot to watch Rashan work and keep an eye on Jihan.

The open shed with racks of herbs laid out was a few feet away from the apple tree.

Rashan’s steps quickened when he saw his Papa sitting at a table under a large umbrella writing his ledgers. This was his chance to ask his burning question.

*~*~*~*

Jihan wrote a letter to Andiya asking her to find an affordable method of packing dried herbs that would also attract interst. He now had to worry about two herb workshops. This one in Antac and the one in the Emperor's palace. He finished off his letter and rolled it to send to Kamran Estate. He reached for another paper to write to Garren and Set. He needed a meeting with them, Tagon and Swallow. The matter with the Iron Lands merchants weighed on his mind.

“Good job, Little Prince,” the farm manager said, his voice laced with excitement.

Jihan glanced up to see Rashan pouring the last of a batch of rosemary sprigs onto a rack. He smiled watching Rashan wipe sweat off his brow, take the goblet of water offered by Aoi and drink deep. Firuz was keeping Rashan busy these days.

Rashan thanked Aoi for the water and hurried to Jihan’s table. He dropped the basket on the grass and sat on the extra stool.

“Papa, what does it mean to be a widower?” Rashan asked.

Jihan placed his ink pen in its holder and gave Rashan all his attention.

“Why do you ask?”

“This morning, a girl at the academy said the Emperor is now a widower. I didn’t like how she said it. It was as though the Emperor has gotten the plague. It upset Yan and Yija. I didn’t know what it means, so I yelled at that girl, had Aoi scare her a bit, and told her not to insult Yan and Yija. Papa, is it a bad thing to be a widower?”

Jihan sat back in his chair a bit stunned. He would have thought Rashan would know the answer to this question. After all, Kastan had been one before they married. Then again, Rashan grew up loved and cared for in the valley. No one showed him unkindness or threw labels at him. He was simply Duke Silver’s son at Silver Shore Valley, the heir.

Yan and Yija, Jihan sighed.

Their reality was hard to handle. Their mother was now a criminal. Their father was an Emperor fighting to take control of a court weakened by Rushi. It was taking everything to smoothen the sharp edges in Kiyan’s direct family.

Yan was more sensitive than Yija.

Yija was practical, much like Rashan. He loved being active and discovering solutions to problems. He accepted direct explanations.

Yan was a thinker. He was too much in his head. Thought about the repercussions of his mother’s offenses, worried what people would think of him. Cried when he blamed his mother for her crimes and thought himself a bad son.

Jihan wished he could make it easier for the boy, but that was impossible.

Rushi, ah Rushi, look what you did, Jihan thought, shaking his head. Was it worth it?

Jihan looked into dark brown eyes.

“Shan, being a widower is not a bad thing,” Jihan said. “Before your Pa married me, he was also a widower.”

“How?” Rashan asked.

“A widower is someone who married and their spouse died. Your Ma, Jian, died making your Pa a widower,” Jihan said.

“Oh,” Rashan frowned. “But, I’ve never heard anyone call Pa a widower?”

Jihan smiled.

“Your Pa is Duke Silver, Shan,” Jihan said. “He takes care of this valley where you’ve lived your whole life. The valley has good people who didn’t stop to think about it or care to mention it to you.”

“Is my Pa still a widower?” Rashan asked.

“No,” Jihan said. “I married your Pa, so he’s not a widower anymore. Shan, remember that it is not a bad thing to be a widower. It just means that your loved one died and you’re learning how to be without that person.”

“Then is Emperor Uncle a widower because Yan and Yija’s Ma died? Rashan asked.

“Yes,” Jihan said. “They were sad because that girl reminded them of a sadness.”

Rashan sat in silent thought.

Jihan bit back a smile and watched Rashan. The boy was twelve now, growing taller by the minute. Soon, they would have to stop calling him Little Prince, and address him as Lord Silver.

His hair was also growing longer, held in a tight knot on top of his head today. His cheeks flushed with the day’s work. Jihan really wanted to reach out and pinch to see Rashan make faces at him. This little boy was still so handsome even with his work robes dusty and sweaty. They could call him Lord Silver, he would always be Shan to him.

Jihan smiled this time and his eyes brightened when Rashan looked at him, as though he had found a solution.

“How can we make Yan and Yija happy?” Rashan asked. “Byul and I will make it happen if you tell us how, Papa.”

“Hmm,” Jihan sat up straight, holding Rashan’s decisive gaze. “Be there for Yan and Yija. Support them, and while their sadness might not end right away, it will become smaller. We’ll all try to fill them with good happy memories. In time, they will feel better. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Rashan said, with a nod.

“Okay.”

“Okay,” Rashan agreed and stood. “I’m going to finish Master Firuz’s training now. He says doing such tasks will make me stronger, faster, and agile.”

“Your master knows best,” Jihan said, and had no chance to say more as Rashan dashed off to Firuz.

Jihan stared at his unfinished letter to Garren and let out a chuckle. Rashan always surprised him. Andiya had been the one to answer his many questions on life, when she could. He never got the chance to ask his parents these matters.

Jihan sighed, and wondered how Duyi and Laner Kamran were doing. Duyi had not caused any trouble of late. He would think of that as a blessing.

As for his mother…

Jihan hoped she was doing well these days.

Jihan started to reach for his pen, but a messenger from the manor arrived with a note for him.

*~*~*~*~*

In the warm family room, Laner sat at a small table for two. She sipped tea, her gaze drawn to the vibrant gardens beyond the large windows. A boy moved among the flowers, trimming them, removing weeds and tending them. She could not help smiling at the warmth that filled her.

Taking a bite of a lemon tart, she looked toward the entrance when she had rushed footsteps.

“Prince Byul, slow down,” Laner heard Soraya say, just as a boy ran into the family room.

Laner pushed her chair back and stood in shock, as two boys followed Prince Byul. Having spent time in the capital with Fortan, Rushi’s advisor, she knew the imperial princes and recognized them on sight. It was surprising to see them here at Sun-filled Manor. They were dressed in pale blue robes that looked like uniforms. The fabric used straight from the royal weaver as expected of their status.

She started to curtsy in respect, but Prince Byul rushed to her side and took her right hand.

“Are you Grandma Kamran?” Byul asked. “Our Uncle Jihan’s Ma?

“Y-yes,” Laner said, shocked by Byul’s eager tone. “I-I’m—”

“Please have a sit, Grandma Kamran. We came to see you ecause we heard you arrived and Rashan is not here,” Yan said. “We just came from the academy.”

Laner sat because Byul guided her back to her chair.

“Soraya, can we have our tea in here too?” Yija asked. “I want to have the same lemon tarts as Grandma Kamran.”

Yija started to drag a chair to the small table, but Soraya hurried to his side.

“Stop,” Soraya said, making Yija let go of the chair. “Let’s get you boys settled at the long couch. Lady Kamran, do you mind shifting closer to the table by the couch? This way, we can arrange snacks there for everyone.”

“I don’t mind shifting at all,” Laner said, getting up, smiling when Byul took her hand and led her to the long couch.

*~*~*~*~*

Soraya met Jihan at the door when he reached home. Rashan was dusty and needed a bath.

“Aoi, take Shan to wash up,” Jihan said, removing his outer coat. Soraya took it as they entered the front hall. “He can meet us after his bath to meet his Grandma. Also, find Lord Safan for an update on Shan’s assignments. We should go through them before he goes to bed today.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Aoi said, hurrying after Rashan who headed to take a bath.

“Your Grace, Lady Kamran arrived with a Master Bahir at Sun-filled Manor,” Soraya said. “He’s resting in the kitchens with Miss Yasmin and Fara. He would like to talk to you. I have Lady Kamran waiting in the family room with the princes.”

“Thank you, Soraya,” Jihan said, turning to give Firuz a wary glance.

His worry reflected in Firuz’s eyes. It was hard to imagine what would bring Laner Kamran to his home without warning.

Jihan could only hope it had nothing to do with Duyi and a mess that would come back to haunt them.

Taking in a deep breath, Jihan went to his office, sliding the doors open as he took in deep breaths. He hated to think of problems created by his father. Hated it because it always meant he needed to go to the capital. He did not want to drag Kastan and Rashan into a Duyi mess.

Jihan grabbed up his fan from his laden desk and walked past the set of chairs arranged for visitors. The windows shined clean, filled the office with afternoon sunlight. Jihan wished he could sit here to watch the garden for a while, but that would have to wait. Firuz went to the screen doors separating the office from the family room.

They had installed a screen door, which boasted a sleeping tiger painted on the paper. The screen door opened to reveal the archway leading into the family room.

Jihan followed Firuz and came to a stop when he saw Laner seated on a long couch. She was laughing because Byul was telling her a story, punctuated with funny expressions. She looked happy, beautiful even in her plain travel robes. Her hair was held back in a simple ponytail, the strands falling down her back

Jihan could not remember seeing his mother laugh when he visited her. She always looked subdued, eager to please Duyi. He had never met this carefree woman.

Laner looked up and saw him. Her laugh ended, replaced with a hesitant smile.

Jihan opened his fan to distract himself from the change on Laner’s happy expression.

Was she not happy to see him?

“Jihan,” Laner said, making him look up, to find that she was standing.

“Uncle Jihan,” Byul, Yan and Yija said in excited chorus.

The three boys stood and raced to his side. He spent a few minutes answering questions about his day.

“Where is Rashan?” Yija asked.

“He’s taking a bath,” Jihan said. “He’ll be here after he is clean. I see you’re all still in your uniform. Why don’t you go change and we’ll meet here when you’re done?”

“Will Grandma Kamran be here?” Yan asked, taking Jihan’s left hand.

Jihan smiled at Yan remembering Rashan’s question earlier about widowers. He would have to find a way to heal that wound for Yan and Yija.

“Grandma Kamran will be here,” Jihan said, squeezing Yan’s hand to reassure him. “It’s too late to travel now. She will sleep here and travel tomorrow.”

“Alright, then we’ll go change quickly,” Yan said and rushed to Laner. “Grandma, we’ll be back. Don’t leave. We’ll come back with Grandpa too. Don’t leave.”

“I’ll be here,” Laner said, watching as the boys rushed out of the family room.

Jihan crossed to where his mother stood and leaned in to press a kiss on Laner’s left cheek.

“Ma,” Jihan said. “I’m sorry you found me outside the manor. You had to wait for me.”

“It’s my fault,” Laner said, quickly, her voice shaky. “I should have written you a message. I didn’t stop to think that I could.”

“Lady Kamran,” Firuz said, giving her a short nod.

“Firuz,” Laner said, smiling at the Shadow Guard.

It was the first smile she ever smiled at Firuz. Jihan’s brow rose in surprise, but he did not mention it.

“Ma,” Jihan said. “Is everything alright? You came alone. Is everything okay at home?”

“All is well,” Laner said, giving him a shy smile. “Um—”

She broke off and looked around the comfortable room.

“Is there somewhere private that we can talk?” Laner asked. “I have a lot to say to you, Jihan. I hope you can let me say it when it’s just us two.”

Jihan frowned, closing his fan, he glanced at Firuz.

“I can check on Bahir,” Firuz said. “I’ll be with Shan afterwards. I’ll spend time with the princes until you are done.”

“Thanks, Firuz,” Jihan said. “Ma, let’s go to my office. No one will disturb us there.”

Laner slid her hand on his left elbow when he offered and he led her to his office.

Jihan closed the sliding door, smiling at the sleeping tiger on the screen. He waved his mother to the guest chairs, choosing to sit next to her, instead of taking his usual seat behind the desk.

When they were settled, Jihan took in a deep breath.

“What brings you to Sun-filled Manor, Ma?” Jihan asked, bracing himself for Duyi’s troubles.

Laner sat in silence for a moment. Jihan studied his fan, stealing a glance at Laner when she squeezed her hands on her lap. She took in a deep breath, and he focused on his fan.

“There are a lot of unsaid things between us,” Laner said. “I’m your Ma, but I-I haven’t been a good one to you.”

Jihan closed his eyes.

“I told you before, I also have not been a good son to you,” Jihan said. “We should let it go.”

“I don’t want to let it go,” Laner said, surprising him. “I have been letting it go for years. It has gotten me to a point that embarrasses me. My daughter has a child I don’t know. My son is a father and a leader respected by an empire. I had nothing to do with it. I’m not proud of myself.”

Jihan held his tongue. He did not know what he could say in answer to Laner’s assessment.

“The past is the past,” Laner said. “I cannot do anything about it. So, I have decided to make a change. Aren’t you going to ask what kind of change?”

Jihan shook his head.

“I don’t want to,” he said.

“I’ll tell you anyway even if you don’t want to ask,” Laner continued. “I’ve left your father in the capital. I’m going to Kamran Estate. I want to help Andiya with her son. I’m hoping she will give me a chance. If she doesn’t, I’ll stay there anyway until she does.”

Jihan smiled because he knew Andiya would not jump with joy at the prospect of her mother showing up at Kamran Estate.

“I can only tell you to remember that Andiya has made a home for herself at Kamran Estate. She’s happy living with her husband at the Gura Orchards.”

“Ishan is a good man,” Laner said. “He sent me a letter after your wedding to Prince Kastan. He invited me to Gura Estate when I was ready. He also told me when my grandson was born.”

“I’m glad you think that of Andiya’s husband. That’s half the fight. I’m telling you that Andiya will be happy to see you at Kamran Estate. She just won’t show it at the start. You should be prepared for that,” Jihan said.

“What about you? How do you feel about me being at Kamran Estate?”

“Adan will be lucky to have his grandmother around the estate,” Jihan said. “You can add to the warmth of a large family that he already has. It will be good for you too, Ma. To be around family as you should have been from the start.”

“Will you hate it very much if I take back stewardship of the house there?” Laner asked.

“This is my home now,” Jihan said, touching the desk next to them. “Kamran Estate belongs to Kamran. You’re our mother. Andiya and I were only filling your shoes as you were in the capital. The house there is yours, Ma. As for the merchant network—”

“It remains your domain,” Laner said, cutting in. “The business you have built is large and impressive. Quite different from what Duyi and I started when we were young. I’ll help where I can with small tasks if they come my way. Jihan, I’ve always wanted to tell you that I’m very proud of what you have achieved. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that before.”

Jihan smiled. A weight on his heart lifting. He had not known he needed to hear Laner say that to him.

“Duyi has been hard on you,” Laner said, her voice filled with sadness. “I’m sorry that I could never stand up to him for you.”

“You don’t have to apologize for him,” Jihan said, shaking his head. He placed the fan on his desk and reached for his mother’s left hand with his right. He held her warm fingers and squeezed. “You had to learn how to survive him too.”

Laner shook her head.

“I wasn’t strong enough. I should have been, but I wasn’t,” Laner said.

“Where is he?” Jihan asked.

“He says to find him at the Gamo Lands,” Laner said. “He refuses to return to Kamran Estate.”

“I’ll find a trustworthy steward to oversee the properties at Gamo,” Jihan said, realizing he had overlooked that part of his family’s responsibilities.

“You don’t have to fix everything for him,” Laner said.

“I’m protecting the family,” Jihan said with a small smile. “Pa is destructive. If he makes a mess of the lands there, the Emperor will hear about it. We, that is you, Andiya, Ishan, Adan, Kas, Shan and I will be responsible for any mess he makes there. We should make sure we know what he is doing and fix it before things go out of hand.”

“Oh, Jihan,” Laner sighed.

“Don’t worry,” Jihan soothed. “It’s not so bad. I like taking care of all of us. It’s the least I can do while my husband takes care of an empire’s defenses.”

Laner sighed, and squeezed Jihan’s hand.

“Are you happy?” she asked, peering into his face.

“Very,” Jihan said, with a shy smile.

“Is he good to you?” Laner asked. “Does he listen to you? Let you live your life with him?”

“He does,” Jihan said.

Laner studied him for another moment.

“Then you’re one of the lucky ones,” Laner said. “I’m relieved to hear it, Jihan. I would not want you to live a marriage like mine.”

“You got Andiya and me from it,” Jihan reminded her. “I hope we are a source of happiness for you.”

“You are,” Laner said, making him smile. She squeezed his hand again and leaned in closer. “You are also a source of surprises. I was so shocked to see the imperial princes living here. How did that happen?”

“It’s a long story,” Jihan said, shaking his head. “Kas and I have turned into temporary guardians as the princes joined the academy Rashan attends. The manor can be quite lively thanks to them.”

“They are different from what I remember,” Laner said. “In the palace they were quiet and hard to get to know. Here they seem friendly.”

“We’re working on it,” Jihan said.

“Tell me about your family, Jihan,” Laner said. “Is it true that Emperor Kaveh stays here too? When do I get to meet Rashan? I’ve yet to greet your husband too. I didn’t know what to bring them, so I brought you jars of honey. You’ll have to tell me what Prince Kastan and Prince Rashan like…”

Jihan grinned as his mother relaxed in his company, giving him hope that their relationship might start changing soon.

*~*~*~*

Laner loved everything about Jihan’s home.

She loved it most when the family gathered at the dining table for the evening meal. She was introduced to four generals. Moran, who brought her to the manor, Naveed, Temu and Safan who lived in the manor. There was Yasmin, Fara and Soraya who helped run the huge manor. Rashan’s Shadow Guard, Aoi, and Firuz.

Laner studied Firuz who was sitting next to her son. She once heard from her mother that if one prayed with sincerity to Bast for the protection of a child, a Shadow Guard would cross his or her path. When Duyi moved her to the Capital, leaving Jihan and Andiya in Kamran, she set up an alter and prayed for six months for her children’s safety. Firuz found Jihan when he was turning twelve and since then she has been grateful to Bast. After all these years, she still could not believe that Bast had answered her prayers.

Her gaze shifted away from Firuz to the three imperial princes, heirs of the nation. Laner smiled watching them, then her gaze shifted to Kaveh Miran. He sat next to Rashan and tended to his grandson as a grandparent should. She wanted that right with Adan.

Lastly, there was Kastan Miran who sat at the head of the table. Her son in-law watched Jihan when he thought everyone was not looking. He listened to Jihan, made sure Jihan had enough food and tea. Theirs was a sweet connection, she smiled when Jihan pouted over the pile of carrots Kastan placed on his plate. Kastan grinned and reached for a piece of grilled fish from the platter before him. He placed it on top of the carrot slices and Jihan smiled.

It was safe to say that her son was thoroughly loved in this home.

Laner felt at ease heading to Kamran Estate to mend her relationship with Andiya.

*~*~*~

After their meal, Jihan left to manage matters in the auxiliary house with the princes. Kaveh followed them as it turned out that his rooms were in the same house. The Generals all left after a polite goodnight to Laner. Soraya, Yasmin and Fara were busy cleaning up the dining table.

Laner found herself sitting at the dining table with Kastan.

“Lady Kamran, would you like to go for a walk with me?” Kastan asked, pushing his chair back.

Laner stood up too.

“I’d love that, Your Grace,” Laner said, following Kastan when he led the way out of the dining room.

Kastan took her out to the back of the manor using the door that led to the kitchens. They walked along a cobbled path to a garden with lush green glass, lanterns built in intervals, and flower gardens in full bloom. There were tables arranged in odd spots.

Laner imagined Kastan’s family sitting out here on sunny afternoons, or early mornings enjoying the garden.

Kastan slowed down and offered her his left arm to hold.

Laner felt her face heat up as her heart skipped like a girl when Kastan matched her pace. Her fingers felt stiff on his strong arm, the fine fabric of his dark overcoat rich to the touch.

“I’m sorry we weren’t home when you arrived,” Kastan said, his voice rumbling and gentle, where she had not expected it to be. He was Duke Silver after all. “Jihan is managing farms owned by our Sun-filled Manor. He’s done a very good job bringing the farms to life. He tries to be available when there is a harvest. It gives the workers there morale when they hear him praising them for a good job.”

“He was always very good with planning,” Laner said.

“I’m busy with military matters,” Kastan said. “I’m grateful that we have Jihan to handle our home. He’s brought the best kind of change to Sun-filled Manor. We can’t imagine living without him here.”

Laner smiled at the love she heard in Kastan’s voice.

“He is the lucky one to have found a place to call his,” Laner decided.

She was not proud of the fact that she felt envious of Jihan’s happiness. Her marriage was not a union of bliss. It had not always been that way. She married Duyi because he was good to her when they were young. They were happy and she had thought that was all they needed. They started Kamran Estate hoping to have a quiet happy life. Comfortable among merchants, not struggling for basic needs. Well, she should say that was her wish, her vision and not Duyi’s dream. She had not known his desire to reach heights she could only imagine. Duyi’s ambition had stayed hidden from her until they moved to the Capital City Akan. Afterwards, all she could do was pray to Bast and hope her children were safe. How useless she had gotten.

“Jihan is happy you’re here,” Kastan said, breaking into Laner’s thoughts. “He won’t say it, but he has worried about you since we left the capital. He has Bahir writing him messages about your health often.”

Kastan brought them to a stop by a short wall showing off a majestic cliff. A huge wooden bridge was built over the cliff leading to lands across. Laner wondered if that was part of Sun-filled Manor too.

“I’ve been a bad mother, Your Grace,” Laner said, letting out a defeated sigh. “Jihan is too kind that he dares worry about me.”

“You’re his Ma,” Kastan said, meeting her gaze. “It’s natural for him to worry about you. Because he worries, so do I. You’re a mother to me and a grandmother to Rashan.”

“Your Grace, I wouldn’t dare,” Laner said. “I’m a small citizen who can never be compared to your Empress Mother.”

“We’re family. Titles and stations have no place in our relationship. As long as Jihan calls you Ma, so will I. Because I call you Ma, Shan will naturally see you as his grandma. There is no need to protest, it just is.”

Laner took in a deep breath at the offer, honored that Duke Silver would dare call her Ma. This honor brought by Jihan who still cared about her as a mother, even after years of negligence on her part. Tears stung the backs of her eyes and she looked away from Kastan.

They stood in silence for a time, then Kastan patted her hand on the crook of his elbow.

“Ma,” he said, his voice so gentle, her tears slid down her cheeks. “Jihan doesn’t always say what he is feeling. So, I’ll say it for him. It will be nice to have you visit our Sun-filled Manor often. I hope you can be comfortable here in our home. Rashan doesn’t have a grandma. He will enjoy having you around. He is still young, feel free to teach him many things.”

Laner smiled at the request, and nodded, brushing away the tears away from her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“I can only spoil the little highness,” Laner said, her voice trembling.

“There’s nothing wrong with him having someone to spoil him. He lives a life of responsibility, it will be good for him,” Kastan said. “Speaking of spoiling Rashan, Ma, on our wedding day, you promised to let me eat your food. I haven’t been able to visit your Kamran Manor in the capital. Will you promise to let me visit Kamran Estate to have a meal?”

“You also said you would complain about my Jihan,” Laner reminded him.

“I did,” Kastan said, with a small chuckle. “Alas, there are only good things happening between us. He’s very good to me, Ma. You definitely handed over your treasure. I’ll have to pamper you so you don’t notice.”

Laner laughed then.

“Duke Silver, are you sweet-talking me?” Laner asked.

“Is it working?”

Laner grinned and shook her head. How could the man make her cry and laugh in the next minute? He was truly worthy of being called Duke Silver.

“It is,” Laner said. “I’ve decided to live for Jihan and Andiya now. It might seem shameless, but I’ll accept your invitation, Your Grace.”

“If I call you Ma, it is very strange for you to call me Your Grace,” Kastan said. “You must call me Kastan.”

Laner started to protest, but Kastan faced her.

“I’ll complain to Jihan if you don’t,” Kastan said. “He’ll be unhappy and he’ll come to complain to you, so—”

“Our Jihan has never complained to me,” Laner said, her tone wistful. “I wish he would.”

“He will start soon,” Kastan promised. “I’ll make it that he does. He really knows how to when he starts.”

Laner chuckled then because she would truly love to see Jihan coming to complain to her. It would mean he was leaning on her like his Ma. How she would truly love to see Jihan that way.

“Then, Kastan,” Laner said. “I’ll look forward to your support.”

Kastan gave her a short nod, and then turned to the cliff.

“Jihan mentioned that you wondered what Shan and I like,” Kastan said. “Shan likes gifts from our travels. We’ve promised to bring him what we buy from other places. He loves leather pouches for his weapons. He is young, but I’ve made him grow up playing with sharp objects. Jihan scolds me when I buy him daggers, but there is no otherwise. Shan is a wild tiger that cannot be tamed.

Laner grinned.

“Kastan, what about you?”

“I like anything Jihan gives me.” Kastan stated.

Laner laughed.

“Duke Silver, a play will start called the Besotted Prince at the Eagle’s Claw if people hear you saying that.”

“It will be a more entertaining play than the one running about me turning into a soppy prince,” Kastan said. “I really did not lock up Silver Shore Valley because of Jian.”

“That love story is the talk of the capital,” Laner protested. “Everyone wants to be Jian who made an Imperial Prince lock up a fiefdom for her.”

“They should like the besotted prince play more,” Kastan said, a smile in his voice. “Not everyone can be the merchant who made an Imperial Prince’s life colorful. Ma, what was Jihan like when he was young?”

“Oh, our Jihan was the cutest little boy you ever did see,” Laner said, her voice filled with nostalgia as the memories flooded her. “He was also very spirited. He tricked every merchant he met out of their money. He jumped over the wall to go play by the river with his best friend, Ishan instead of studying. I could never get him to sit still.”

Kastan grinned.

“He loves eating fish, so they would catch fish. He would make Ishan clean it and they would cook it by the river. He would bring me a piece he thought was grilled well. It would be wrapped with the writing paper he was supposed to use to practice his letters,” Laner said, laughing. “I really could never make him sit and study….”

*~*~*~*~*

Laner stayed at Sun-filled Manor for two days. Jihan put everything he had going on hold to spend time with her. He gave her a tour of the valley, and took her for tea at the famed inn at the trade station.

Jihan took her to Rashan’s academy and Laner was tickled to no end when she managed to attend one of Rashan’s classes.

When it was time to go home, Kastan and Jihan made sure she was in a comfortable carriage. Bahir accompanied her on a majestic horse. His new job was to help guard Kamran Estate and the manor Laner would use.

Laner promised to visit with Andiya in two months. It felt good to be part of the family this way.

As her carriage left the manor, Jihan held Kastan’s hand tight.

“Now that Ma has moved to Kamran, I’m sending a merchant troop be stationed at Gamo,” Jihan said. “My father is taking up his title and lands. He is not one to sit in silence. There will be machinations brewing designed by my Pa.”

“I’ll send in ghost warriors to keep watch.”

“He’ll hire a steward to manage the manor there,” Jihan said with a sigh.

“We’ll find someone to fit the job,” Kastan said.

Jihan looked up at Kastan.

“Pa will frustrate you,” Jihan said.

“My brother frustrates you,” Kastan said. “I can’t believe he has you selling the herbs from the palace.”

Jihan chuckled and leaned up to kiss Kastan’s right cheek.

“Your Grace,” Naveed said from a few feet away. “General Condi is on his way to the Duke’s Office.”

Kastan sighed, and caressed Jihan’s right cheek, tracing his thumb over Jihan’s skin.

“I have to go. I’ll see you this evening,” Kastan said.

“I love you, Duke Silver.”

Kastan leaned in and whispered into Jihan’s ear. “Love you too, An.”

*~*~*~*~*

Yoru arrived at Sun-filled Manor the afternoon Laner left for Kamran Estate. Jihan greeted him at the back of the manor, right by the wall at the cliff as always.

“You’re getting heavy, Yoru,” Jihan teased as the eagle rested on his left arm.

Or you’re getting weak,” Yoru said, widening his wing span to show off his wings.

Jihan laughed. It must be age, Yoru. I’m turning into an old man.

If you’re an old man then I’m a relic. I’m older than you, young one.”

Jihan laughed then and touched the top of Yoru’s head. Despite his age, the eagle still looked so majestic. He was the king of his world.

“I should visit the Silver Shore Valley eyrie,” Jihan said. “I must greet your elders and thank them for teaching you how to talk to me.”

They are eager to meet you too. Duke Silver is important to them, so are you,” Yoru said, and inclined his head toward the bridge. “You just need to cross that bridge. Duke Silver should take you there.”

Jihan gave the new bridge a wary glance and shrugged. He took the note from Andiya and held it up to Yoru.

“I won’t write one back this time. I have a job for you. Ma is on the way to Kamran Estate,” Jihan said. “If you can trail her carriage, and make sure Set knows if there is a problem, I’ll be grateful. Ma is not used to the road and might be nervous.”

I’ll watch out for her,’ Yoru said.

“Do you want to go for a ride, Yoru? I’ve been missing a fast horse ride trying to chase you,” Jihan said.

“Where is your husband? He’ll worry if we just leave the valley.”

“Kas is in the Duke’s Office,” Jihan said. “We don’t have to leave the valley. And I won’t be alone, we’ll be with Firuz. We can go to the training grounds in the green area. No one will bother us.”

“Alright, I’ll wait for you.”

Jihan grinned, putting the note from Andiya in his pocket. He turned to Firuz to find his Shadow Guard shaking his head in resignation.

Thirty minutes later, Jihan rode his horse at top speed across a vast field Kastan’s soldiers used for training. It was a beautiful day to have his mother back in his life and his family happy. Yoru flew right above him, and Jihan did his best to catch up, even though Yoru was much faster. The ride so exhilarating his spirit felt lighter. It felt so good.

*~*~*~*~*

Jihan reconciles with his Ma.
Suilan Lee, 2019-2021
  • Like 23
  • Love 45
  • Haha 1
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

Am happy for this chapter I was hoping Laner will come to her senses I asked for it on chapter 32 happy reading it now it’s even better than I hoped thank you 

  • Like 3
Link to comment

@lilansui I need this story to continue into perpetuity. These characters feel so real. I cried and laughed and enjoyed the myriad of feelings that were conjured through your impeccable writing. I want to see the kids grow up and develop into the leaders they are destined to become. Your writing is fantastic and I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this gem of a story. 

  • Like 2
  • Love 2
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..