Go To Part 3
Friday, November 11, 2011
Cheri - Part 2
Every day for a week, Chèri and Kyo wandered through town and picked up odd jobs here and there. She even brought him to the temple to tell stories to the children. By the end of the week, they were laughing and joking as if they had been best friends their entire life.
She always brought him home, and cooked dinner after their hard work. Sho was always home, and Kyo was astonished that her father never once made even the slightest suggestion that Chèri marry him. To Kyo, it seemed only natural that two people who got along as well as they did should get married.
After dinner, they would walk back to the palace and say good night, but Chèri never let him kiss her again. This confused him, and he couldn’t figure out why. He spent hours thinking about kissing her, and was almost crushed that she avoided giving him any opportunity.
By the end of the week, he knew he probably wouldn’t be able to see her anymore. He stood next to her outside her assigned room, and wondered how to tell her. He also wondered if he could catch her off guard again and steal a kiss.
He inhaled deeply, and prepared himself to break the news gently. “Chèri? … I probably won’t be able to see you anymore.”
At first, Chèri thought he was joking, and laughed softly. Then she realized he was serious. “Why not?”
Kyo sighed. “I have a lot of things I need to do. Things I’ve put off in order to spend time with you… Things I can’t ignore anymore.”
“I see,” Chèri murmured in disappointment. She bit her lip in indecision, and stepped close enough to tug on his sleeve. “If… If I invite you in for a cup of tea, can I trust you not to try anything inappropriate?”
Kyo realized that she was completely off guard, and took advantage of it. He pulled her close, and seized a greedy kiss from her. Once again, she was too surprised to do anything for a moment, but finally, she pushed him away.
Panting heavily, he confessed, “I couldn’t resist.” It took him a moment to gather up the motivation, but slowly he stepped back, and maintained a proper distance from her.
Chèri was blushing, and looked around to see if anyone had seen that. The way the palace was built, the entire complex was made up of several smallish buildings connected by walkways. Considering that almost the entire Empire was warm all year round, there was no need for a single building full of hallways to shelter the inhabitants from the cold of winter. Therefore, all of the smallish buildings that made up the palace had doors that opened onto the outdoor walkways for use by the occupants. Only servants ever used the small interior passages designed to keep them out of sight.
Chèri figured that such an open design was guaranteed to expose her stolen kiss to a myriad of prying eyes, but unless someone was spying on her in secret, no one was around to see anything she might do. This thought was a bit frightening. I’m staying with the Court Ladies, after all! Shouldn’t at least one of them be around?
Nervous that she wasn’t looking directly at him, or responding in any way, Kyo was tempted to apologize, but then decided to make a promise instead. “I give you my word that I will not try anything else inappropriate if you decide to invite me in for a cup of tea.”
Chèri smiled faintly. She knew enough about him by now to know that he never broke a promise. However, if she invited him in now, she might seem to be encouraging him to kiss her again in the future. She sighed so softly that he was half convinced he imagined it.
“I’m supposed to be flirting with the Emperor, and I haven’t even met him yet,” she murmured. “It’s not a good idea for me to be seen letting you kiss me and then inviting you into my room. I must be stupid after all!”
Kyo wasn’t sure what to say.
“Come on in, but I warn you now, if you break your promise, I will hurt you!”
“I believe you!” Kyo stated with a grin.
Chèri poured water from a pitcher into a smallish clay pot, and set the pot over a large candle to boil. It was standard for each room in the palace to have a pot and candle specifically for making tea with. Even the tea leaves were provided amply.
Kyo watched her watch the pot. “So… what else would you do if you could become an Official?”
Chèri grinned. “You’ve seen the temple! Don’t you think that there should be a program that provides shelter to those who cannot find a place to live for whatever reason? The elderly, the sick, orphans… cripples… The temple cannot care for them all without help, and ever since the mass starvation three years ago, there are a lot of people dependent on the temple.”
“That does sound like a good idea. It’s strange, but it seems like every idea you have is a way to help the people. I don’t think most Officials ever even think about the poorest of the commoners,” Kyo remarked.
Chèri nearly growled. “They would if they had watched nearly all of their neighbors suffer! It’s horrible to think about, but when it became apparent that anyone who stayed in the Capitol City risked death by starvation, just about every noble left for their country estates! They could have helped! They could have spent their money importing food from across the Empire – not that there was much to be had – in order to feed the people, but no… they simply,” Chèri shrugged helplessly. “Left.”
Kyo looked depressed again. “I didn’t know about all of that. I lived in the palace. I had no mother or anyone to care for me, and all I ever saw was fighting amongst the Imperial Princes. Whenever I was noticed, they’d beat me and or lock me up all alone. Ironically, when the Princes kept killing each other any trying to blame anyone they could, not a single one of them could ever point a finger at me because it was well known that I was locked in my room pretty much constantly. On the other hand, I was always brought more food than I could eat, so I had no idea that people were starving.”
This was the first time that Kyo had talked about himself other than to tell her about his likes and dislikes. She was astonished, and nearly spilled the tea that was now ready to pour.
“You lived in the palace?!” Chèri asked incredulously. “Your family didn’t evacuate you… no of course they wouldn’t… you already said there was no one. I guess you must have been one of the lucky few orphans that the previous Emperor took in as a token of his magnanimous generosity,” she sneered the last two words.
Kyo shrugged. “If you can call beaten and locked up lucky.”
Chèri flushed in embarrassment. “I didn’t mean it like that!”
“It’s fine, really. It’s not like I was in any danger of dying. They all took their frustrations out on me, and I don’t think any of them wanted to kill me because then they wouldn’t have a whipping boy anymore,” Kyo informed her, trying to sound like his past didn’t hurt. “It was only the nights that I hated. All alone… in the dark…”
Chèri paled, her hands shaking slightly. “Even the Emperor? Did he take his frustrations out on you?”
“… … No… he, uh, he kept to himself and tried to stay out of everyone’s way. As I hear it, he only survived because all the older Princes were too busy murdering each other.”
Having finished pouring their tea, Chèri set the pot gently on the table, and stared unseeing at her lap. “That must have been so horrible for him. His mother had died years ago. His brothers kept killing each other. Their mothers kept scheming to enthrone their son, and his father was on his death bed. No one seemed to care about him at all.”
Chèri looked directly into Kyo’s eyes. “I’ve always wondered, is it true that all of the previous Queen Consorts killed themselves when they realized that there was no one left to inherit the throne except the youngest Prince, or did he have them all executed? They say it was suicide, but surely at least one of them would have wanted to live.”
Kyo frowned. “You think the Emperor executed his father’s wives before he had even died? That’s pretty heartless and cold! You really don’t have a good opinion of the Emperor, do you?”
“That’s just it! All I or any citizen knows about him is that he doesn’t do his job. He refuses to attend meetings with his council. He refuses to consider marriage so that he can at least start working on an heir, and no one I have spoken to here in the Inner Palace can even recall seeing him in weeks! I myself have wandered all around the Inner Palace looking for him, and I’ve found nothing but his empty room. Even his bodyguards have no idea where he goes during the day, though they’ve at least seen him each night, so I know he’s still alive.”
Chèri took a sip of tea to calm herself. “When I think about the Emperor facing the women who each encouraged their own sons to kill each other, I can’t help but wonder if he simply decided to get rid of them all and be done with the violence. It’s the smart decision. Yes, that would make him heartless and cold, but he had no one to teach him to be otherwise, did he?”
It was Kyo’s turn to stare at his lap without really seeing anything. “I guess you’re right. I never thought about it that way before.” His face was pale, and he swayed unsteadily.
Chèri gasped, and abruptly leaned over to feel his forehead. “You’re burning up!” She was amazed he had managed to hide it from her for so long. Why didn’t I notice when he kissed me?
“I hate being alone,” Kyo murmured. “The darkness is terrible.”
Chèri steadied him when he nearly fell over, pulling one of his arms over her shoulder. “Is your room far from here?”
“Hmm?... Mmmhmm,” Kyo murmured. He was heavy enough that she had trouble standing up while trying to get him to his feet. There was no way she could drag him to his own room even if it was close by.
Not really having a choice, Chèri helped him into her bed. She used the leftover water from the pitcher to wet a cloth to put on his head, and then tended him until his fever broke a couple hours later. She was so exhausted and relieved that she lay down next to him, and fell right to sleep.
The next morning, Chèri felt like she was being smothered by a bear. She opened her eyes to discover Kyo’s sleeping face snuggling her small but ample bosom. Had he been awake, she would have punched him for daring to touch her so familiarly, but as he was, she doubted he’d remember they’d shared a bed.
He looks so peaceful while he’s sleeping. He was always so broody while he was awake that the difference was startling. She pushed him, and tried to squirm out from under him, but he instinctively held her even tighter than ever.
Chèri heard the Court Ladies talking, and was thankful that her attendant never came help her unless summoned. This would be far too awkward to explain! Even though they were both fully clothed, everyone would assume more than sleep had occurred last night.
A gossipy pair of Ladies strolled by the Chèri’s door – which was thankfully closed! “Did you hear? According to the Emperor’s bodyguards, the Emperor did not return to his room at all last night!”
“Why would his guards tell you?” The second woman asked in disbelief.
“Because I wanted to offer the Emperor some tea and perhaps a stroll around the Inner Palace garden, but the bodyguards laughed. When I asked why, they told me that he wasn’t sleeping in his room because he was interested in someone else.”
“I wonder who?!” The second woman gasped, half scandalized, half in love with the idea of a secret romance going on.
Chèri imagined the first woman shrugging even though they were getting far enough away to make it harder to hear them. “Who knows?! It’s not like he ever visits the Court Ladies!”
Chèri waited until she couldn’t hear a sound, and then shoved Kyo as hard as she could.
“Ow!” Kyo grunted in protest. He opened his eyes to discover that he was literally on top of the one he had promised not to do anything indecent to. He sat up abruptly. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to –” He realized that they were both fully dressed and a confused expression covered his face.
“You bastard!” Chèri swore at him as quietly as she could while still ensuring that he could clearly hear her.
“I swear I didn’t do anything!” Kyo yelled, also being as quiet as he could to avoid attracting attention.
“Yes! You lied to me! You’re the Emperor!” Chèri accused.
“How –?” Kyo stared at her with his mouth gaping.
“You let me go on and on about the Emperor, embarrassing myself thoroughly, when all this time you’re him!” Chèri was so pissed off that she nearly forgot to keep her voice down, but that was the absolute last thing she wanted. Imagine! Being forced to marry the Emperor because he’s caught in my bed!
“I really am sorry that I lied, but you have no idea what it’s like! You are literally the first person who has ever talked to me as if I was…” he struggled to find an accurate description, and finally settled on, “a person.”
Chèri gaped at him and felt her anger receding. She really didn’t know what it was like, and couldn’t begin to imagine how he felt to finally find someone to – Oh my Gods! I dragged him around town and made him work! I think I can be beheaded for much less than what I’ve done!
He saw the fear creep into her eyes, and had a pretty good idea what she was thinking. “Calm down,” he suggested, stroking her arm gently. “There’s no way I’d ever let anyone harm you.” He leaned close to kiss her, but stopped when his lips were a mere inch from hers. “Marry me.”
Chèri didn’t have time to reply before he kissed her, so she waited for him to finish, pushing him away when he took too long. “No!” She stated firmly.
“Because Reiki – Emperor Reiki – Imperial Majesty,” Chèri briefly struggled with how she’s actually supposed to address him. “I do not want to get married yet. My dreams may be impossible, but I haven’t even tried to accomplish them!”
“I don’t understand; you told me that you were here to entice the Emperor into marriage. You even went so far as to ask his – er my – bodyguards where to find me. If you didn’t intend to accept my proposal, then why are you here?” Reiki asked.
“I said I was sent here because I was supposed to entice the Emperor into marriage. My uncle’s exact words were coerce. I never said that I wanted to get married. In fact, I remember saying that I wanted to hunt the Emperor down and beat him into submission! I only agreed to come here because I was hoping to nag the Emperor into doing his job!” Chèri informed him, angry again. She still remembered to be quiet, and kept one ear on any noise coming from outside her room.
Reiki sighed. “How about we agree to get married later? That way you can take some time to do whatever you need to, and I will have…” he faltered, not sure how to finish that sentence.
Chèri prepared herself to be brutal. “I’m sorry, Imperial Majesty, but if I married you, I would never be anything more than the woman who told you what to do. I would use you to do what needed to be done. Sure, I believe it would be good for the Empire, but what about you? Would you really be happy married to a controlling woman like me?”
“Happy?” Reiki snorted in amusement. “Whoever said I get to be happy?” He inhaled, and then sighed. “Actually yes, I think I would be happy.”
Chèri forgot that he was the Emperor for a moment, and smacked him. “You irresponsible idiot! Do you realize that you just told me that you’d be happy married to me because I’d be doing all your work for you?!”
Reiki had to think this through, but then he realized that she was right, and blushed. “What if I proved to you that I plan to be a good Emperor?”
Chèri frowned, confused.
“Think about it, I told you last night that I couldn’t see you anymore because I had too many things to do. I fully intended to go to the Outer Palace to attend the council meeting with my Advisors today. I planned to stop being so irresponsible. What if – say by this time next year – I manage to do something a good Emperor should; would you marry me then?” Reiki asked.
“I guess that depends on if I feel like getting married,” Chèri replied thoughtfully. “You had better not dare send an official offer for my hand to my uncle! If you do that, I will stubbornly refuse to marry you until the end of time!”
Reiki sighed in a way that made it obvious that she had just foiled his devious plan. “I understand.” He took advantage of the fact that she was glaring at him and not expecting to defend herself. He kissed her, and locked his arms around her so that she couldn’t escape.
She struggled and pushed against him anyway. The moment he freed her, she slapped him as hard as she could. “What part of ‘I will not marry you’ makes you think that I want you to kiss me?!”
“The part where you didn’t say, ‘I don’t love you,’” Reiki pointed out.
Chèri had no idea what to say to that because she had no idea how she felt about him. True, she liked him a lot. She even liked it when he held her close and kissed her, but she had no idea if she loved him.
“Imperial Majesty, please leave my room. I need to pack,” Chèri insisted.
He frowned in disappointment. “Please, call me by my name. I want to hear someone actually say it, even if it’s only this one time.”
Chèri couldn’t say no when he said it that way. “Reiki… I plan to return home, but I’ll come visit. I wasn’t joking when I said I would tell you what to do. In order to tell you, I need to see you, right?”
Reiki smiled. “Will you visit every day?”
Chèri couldn’t help but smile over how eager he was to see her. “No, but I will miss dragging you around town with me every day… Reiki.”
Reiki melted. The way his name softly came out of her mouth made him want to kiss her again, and he stared at her lips as he leaned closer to her. She put her hand over his mouth to prevent him from acting out what was on his mind.
“You have to go… and besides, isn’t kissing me repeatedly breaking your promise not to do anything inappropriate?”
Reiki smirked. “I think it’s actually very appropriate. I’d like to do it some more.”
Chèri repeated herself as firmly as possible, her hand still hovering near his mouth. “You have to go. Please, Reiki?”
He groaned in response. It was frustrating that she agreed to call him by name, and hinted that she might consider marrying him in the future, but completely pushed him away otherwise! If he thought she could be persuaded with gifts, he’d shower her in jewels!
He slowly backed away until he reached the edge of the bed, and then stood up. “I’ll go, but please don’t leave the palace just yet. I want to talk to you about my day when I return from the meeting tonight.”
Chèri wanted to firmly deny his request, but she realized that he was about to do something he really didn’t want to do – for her. If she didn’t support and encourage him now, then there was nothing to stop him from deciding it was too hard. He could easily give up, and never attend an official meeting again. Given enough time, his Advisors would certainly strip him of all power, and use the opportunity to give more power to themselves.
“I’ll stay,” she agreed.
“Thank you!” Reiki gushed with a smile, and turned to leave. He remembered to listen for anyone outside before cracking the door open just enough to look for anyone that might see him. Deciding the coast was clear, he prepared to open the door and make his exit.
“Have a productive meeting… Reiki,” Chèri wished with a smile.
Reiki felt his heart pound, and he nearly giggled from the giddiness of it. He flung the door open, stepped outside, and strode towards his room with a fierce determination he’d never felt before. My Advisors have no idea what they’re in for!
Chèri stayed in the palace for one more week – as she had originally intended – but then she insisted that she had to leave. Reiki was enthralled by the fact that there was one person who talked to him as if he were ordinary despite knowing that he’s the Emperor. He talked to her everyday about the things he did.
She compromised by letting him cuddle with her as he talked. As long as he did not try to kiss her – or touch her where he shouldn’t – it was just easiest to let him put an arm around her as they sat drinking tea. He claimed that she inspired him, and she was finding it harder and harder to remember why she wanted to resist him.
On the day she planned to leave, she had everything packed up and ready to go so that she could leave first thing in the morning. She hoped to be out of the palace before he came looking for her to beg her to stay longer. Given half a chance, she feared that he could talk her into almost anything.
Chèri was surprised to find him waiting for her by the gate between the Inner and Outer Palace. He was wearing at least 4 or 5 richly decorated layers of wafuku, not including the plain cotton inner layer that everyone wore under their clothes. His hair was adorned with the Imperial Crown, and he looked every bit the Emperor that he actually was.
A man stood on either side of him, and Chèri recognized them as his bodyguards that she had talked to once or twice while searching for the Emperor. They watched her curiously, obviously wondering why their employer was standing here at the crack of dawn. She frowned, also wondering why he was even awake and fully dressed at this time of day.
She decided to play it safe while in front of others. “Imperial Majesty,” she stated as she placed her right fist in her left palm, and bowed. The sleeves of her houmongi – which were long enough to cover half her hands, but didn’t have much for undersleeves – seemed to join together as if trying to hide her hands completely.
“I just knew you would do this. I couldn’t sleep at all last night, and decided to get ready for today’s council meeting as something to do when it occurred to me that you planned to leave today, and that you probably wouldn’t say goodbye,” Reiki explained. “So, I waited here in order to catch you when you left.”
Chèri looked around to make certain no one else was awake and watching them. She ignored the guards who were suddenly scrutinizing her with deep interest. Other than the four of them, there was no one around.
“I said goodbye last night,” she protested softly, and then pointed one finger at each of the guards in warning. “And don’t you dare interpret that the wrong way!”
“I don’t want you to go,” Reiki said softly.
“I have to go,” Chèri insisted. “If I don’t earn more money soon, I won’t be able to fix the roof before the rain returns.” By this, she referred to the fact that the rains came fairly heavily for a short time in the spring and fall. Since it was currently summer, fall was just around the corner.
“I could give you the money to fix your roof,” Reiki offered.
Chèri was trying to treat him like she should treat the Emperor, but his words upset her. “If you’re going to give your money away, give it to the temple! Better yet! Do your job and make sure that people don’t need to depend on the temple for help!”
“I’m trying!” Reiki held up his hands in an attempt to placate her.
Chèri took a calming breath, and then sighed softly. “Anyway, it’s time for me to go.”
Reiki stepped slightly out of the way, and she kept a wary eye on him as she walked toward the gate. Sure enough, he grabbed her and pulled her close the moment she was within reach. Why do his kisses always surprise me?
She remembered to push him away a moment later, and then hit him. “I told you not to kiss me anymore, Reiki!”
“I can’t help it; you’re leaving!” He protested, as if this was a valid excuse.
“I promised to come visit when I can!” Chèri argued, still trying to push herself out of his arms.
“It’s not enough, Chèri, I want you by my side at all times!” He insisted, tightening his grip on her.
“If you have time to be arguing with me, you idiot, go do your job!” Chèri shouted quietly, getting really upset now. She finally managed to break free of his arms.
His bodyguards were only with him because he was dressed up as the Emperor, and it was their job to guard him when he was this easily recognizable – inside the secure Inner Palace or not. They had insisted on accompanying him, and remained firm as he tried to order them to leave him alone. They’d been watching this scene with surprise and then astonishment that she dared to abuse the Emperor, but now they were both covering amused snickers.
“Can I come eat dinner at your house again, Chèri?”
“Reiki…” Chèri sighed, and decided to cave in. “I suppose that if you have time, you can come, but not tonight! I’m going to be working late, and probably won’t be home in time to make dinner.” She noticed that he still held her hand, and stared at it as she wondered if she should snatch it away.
“In that case, I look forward to seeing you again,” Reiki murmured, and kissed her hand.
She smiled, and brushed her other hand along his cheek. “Take care of yourself, all right? I don’t want you to come down with another fever.”
Reiki maintained interest all throughout the council meeting. As the youngest Imperial Prince, he had never been expected to ascend the throne, even so, he had been required to learn how the government worked. Had he remained the younger brother to the Emperor, he would have been expected to help the Emperor fulfill his duties. Instead, he had to do them all on his own.
His two personal bodyguards were actually the second and third in command of the Imperial Army. As such, they attended him during meetings, and even had some say in things. The Minister of Finance was currently arguing with the Minister of Defense – who was in command of the Imperial Army – over whether or not they should devote more funds to hiring and training new soldiers despite being a time of peace.
The Minister of Palace Affairs interrupted to argue that more funds should be devoted to maintaining the Palace by hiring more servants – especially to care for the grounds. Other Ministers broke in to argue that their respective departments deserved money more than the Palace did, since it was already in excellent condition. Reiki kept wondering how any of their suggestions would help the people.
Finally, it was agreed that every department would compile reports on the projects they wanted funds for, and submit them to the Minister of Finance for consideration. Those that he felt had any merit he would forward to the Emperor to review and make a decision on. This satisfied everyone since – now that the Emperor was actually doing his job – each department had a chance at obtaining more funds.
“Is there any other business for today?” The Grand Advisor asked. No one dared breathe lest someone bring something up and detain them further.
Reiki decided the time was perfect to speak up. “I was thinking that it would be a good idea to let women take the tests to become an Official.”
All of his Ministers – except the Grand Advisor and his two bodyguards – stared at him in shock. No one made a sound for at least 10 full seconds, and then it sounded like a dam burst. The Ministers all began protesting and arguing at the same time.
Reiki let them have their say for a few moments, and then held up his hand for silence. “When the first Emperor and the heads of the 8 Great Clans initially founded the Empire, he instituted the tests to ensure that only the smartest citizens were allowed to hold Office. He never specified that women were not allowed to take them, it simply never came up. Later, 50 years later – to be exact – a woman wanted to take the test, and the Ministry at the time decided that she would not be allowed, thus it is believed that women cannot take the tests.”
He paused to let everyone think this over. “I wonder why? If the true intention of the tests is to ensure that only the smartest citizens hold Office, then why are women not allowed to take them?”
“Imperial Majesty!” The Minister of Civil Affairs cried out. He was the man in charge of overseeing all the Officials in the Empire, meaning that he had the authority to fire anyone if deemed incompetent. The only people he needed permission to fire, promote, or demote were the Highest Officials – his peers on the council. “Women in the Government would be a disaster! Besides… they could never pass the test.”
Reiki nodded mildly, an expression of agreement on his face. “I must confess that I’m confused. If women could never pass the tests anyway, why not allow them to take them? What would be the harm?”
It took a few moments for anyone to come up with an argument against his point. “Because, Imperial Majesty, if one did happen to pass the tests, then she would be an Official.”
Reiki peered into the Minister of Archives eyes sternly. “As I understand it, Minister, your department is continually understaffed because no one wants to file and keep track of all of the reports and other paperwork that pours in from all of the other departments. Are you honestly telling me that you would turn away a pair of working hands just because they’re female?”
“Uh… actually, no. If a woman worked in my department, that wouldn’t be so bad. But I shudder to think what would happen if a woman became the Minister of Finance or Grand Advisor someday,” the Minister of Archives replied.
Reiki could see all of the Ministers think about how understaffed they were, and how much they could use an extra pair of hands, even if they were female. They started to exchange sly looks that plainly said, it’s not like we’d ever allow a woman to rise high in the ranks anyway.
Feeling that he would win if he struck while the iron was hot – so to speak – the Emperor stood up from his elaborate throne. “I propose that we allow women to take the tests starting this fall.” The tests were only administered once a year, in the fall. Therefore, the Emperor was asking them to make a big change, and have it effective immediately.
The Ministers who had the largest deficit of workers in their departments voted yes almost immediately. When everyone saw that the Minister of Finance was one of those voting yes, they all caved in. Only the Minister of Defense remained opposed, stating that women would never be allowed in the Department of Defense.
Reiki carefully maintained a blank expression. “Excellent. With no other business to discuss, I hereby call an end to this meeting. Dismissed.”
He waited for them to bow to him, then left through his personal exit. His bodyguards followed him. The moment they were out of sight and hearing range, Reiki grinned, and trumpeted, “Yes!”
His bodyguards both snorted. “Whatever possessed you to allow women into the Government?”
Reiki genuinely trusted them, they had both been appointed after the fiasco three years ago. Neither had ever shown any loyalty to any of the other Imperial Princes, and it would make no sense for them to betray the Emperor. They were even something akin to friends with him, so, he answered them honestly.
“Chèri wants to be an Official.”
“Ah,” they murmured, tactfully not teasing him, but they didn’t have any problems teasing each other.
“I’m surprised that you didn’t get to her first, oh irresistible General Sapphire,” the younger one said elbowing the older one in the ribs.
“Oh, you’re just jealous because some girl has stolen your man, General Ruby,” General Sapphire, first name Ran, teased back.
“Oh right!” General Ruby snorted. “Just because I don’t sleep with every woman who’ll spread her legs for me, doesn’t mean that I’m interested in men!”
“General Ruby couldn’t sleep with Chèri anyway,” Reiki informed them, ignoring the fact that they were discussing his beloved in such a vulgar manner. “He’s the adopted son of her uncle.”
“What?” General Ko Ruby gaped. He’d been adopted about half his life, but he couldn’t recall having any cousins.
“Yes, she’s Shurin Ruby, daughter of Sho Ruby,” Reiki stated.
“Oh…” Ko exhaled in thought. “Now that you mention it, I do remember father bringing us to a funeral for Sho’s wife a few years back. I didn’t realize they were brothers. So that’s why she looked familiar to me.”
Ran scratched his head in confusion. “The young Lady of the Ruby clan works for a living?”
“Now that you mention it, that doesn’t make sense!” Ko agreed.
Reiki smiled. “Perhaps you should go pay a visit to your uncle Sho, and bring him a message from me. I want to thank him for keeping my secret when I dropped in for dinner. Chèri didn’t know who I was then,” he explained when they cast him a curious look.
“That’ll be my mission tomorrow while you’re working in your office,” Ko promised.
“I’d better go with him,” Ran stated. “Knowing Ko, he’ll get lost and waste the whole day looking for his uncle’s house.”
Reiki laughed. “And then you’ll have an excuse to stop by your favorite pleasure house.”
Ran bobbed his head in a way that said, “Yeah, you got me there,” and returned the good natured laugh.
“Maybe I can drag Ko in there with me, for once!” Ran teased.
Ko rolled his eyes, and opened the door to the Emperor’s room, now that they had arrived. “After you, Imperial Majesty.”
Reiki mentally sighed. Even though Ran and Ko were the closest things he had to friends, not even they would ever dare call him by name; no matter how much he insisted – not that he bothered wasting his breath anymore.I miss you Chèri!
Go To Part 3