Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 16: Opportunity
Ashiyowa had finally escaped from hunger at the country’s richest palace.
Ever since the Emperor began having him served miso soup, vegetables with simple, bland flavours and ripe fruits would accompany all his meals along with a cooked dish. The head royal chef, Yukidoke, would always ask him what he thought of the dishes after.
The living room, wider than several normal-sized rooms combined, seemed to be designated for Ashiyowa’s use. Inside, he could often be found sitting in the corner, at a circular table. 1 Buried under all the elaborate and ornamental furniture, it was plain and thus more familiar to him.
Ashiyowa’s belongings comprised the souvenir he bought for the couple back at the village and the cloth that wrapped it, the book he bought with Wang, the rest of his money, and a small knife.
Ashiyowa moved through the furniture carefully to avoid touching it and searched for his clothes, shoes, and hat. The cane that he had handmade of branches was also missing. As he wandered around, the chamberlain offered him a cane.
The cane was shiny, lacquered black, and smooth, carved and inlaid with coral and ivory.
Ashiyowa drew back his outstretched hand.
“What happened to my cane?”
“His Majesty wants you to have this.”
Ashiyowa timidly accepted the cane into his hands. He tested it out on the floor which was covered with tiger fur, slowly putting weight on it.
“How is the height?”
The elderly chamberlain with a kind face asked.
“Yes, it’s just right…”
“Um… about my clothes and belongings…”
“For now, we’ve removed them.”
“Ah, would I be able to change back into my clothes? Please?”
Upon saying that, the chamberlain’s smile stiffened and he knelt on the spot.
“Aniue-sama, are you perhaps dissatisfied with the clothes we have provided?”
At first, Ashiyowa would spend the day in his white nightwear, refusing the robes offered to him each morning. But when the Emperor questioned the elderly chamberlain about this in front of Ashiyowa, he turned pale. He didn’t think the chamberlain would be reprimanded for his actions. In a panic, he blurted to the Emperor that he would wear the clothes if they were plainer and more modest.
That being said, Ashiyowa’s idea of modesty was much different from those who lived in the palace.
It was true that the robes they presented this time had less embroidery and fewer layers. But they were still flashy.
“This is… plain?”
“Yes, His Majesty and us servants ended up deciding on this, after much deliberation and restraint.”
Hearing the chamberlain’s voice in such pain, Ashiyowa decided to put his arms through the sleeves of the robes for the first time. His first impression was that it was heavy. When he was asked if he was dissatisfied with it―
Ashiyowa looked down at his clothes, absent-minded. The robe was blue. It was decorated with some black embroidery, which was on the conservative side, and had black pearls sewn onto it. They glimmered whenever he moved. His shoes covered his feet with embroidered cloth and the bottoms had wooden soles.2
He was also given a yellow belt, which was a colour worn only by the Emperor and members of the royal family. Ashiyowa did not consider himself royalty and was reluctant to wear the belt.
“Not dissatisfied… But it’s just a little too much.”
“If it does not displease you, please wear it. It suits you well.”
Just like that, Ashiyowa’s objections had been quashed.
―At this rate, he would never be able to return to the mountains.
The Emperor anticipated his brother’s arrival with excitement as he listened to the approaching clacking of a cane. As the chamberlain opened the door to the dining table, Ashiyowa appeared in his blue robes.
The Emperor unconsciously let out a smile.
His brother was finally starting to eat his meals properly and his cheeks were no longer hollow. He also heard that Ashiyowa had accepted the cane he offered him today. Upon hearing that report, the Emperor announced that he would finish dealing with state matters early and invite Ashiyowa to dinner.
He chose a circular table. That way, they could eat side by side. Having to sit opposite each other would be much too confrontational for Ashiyowa.
In front of the Emperor were Shashan steamed with spicy sauce, an assortment of sea grapes and raw Nulu, homemade salted venison, fried venison, shark heart, pepper-flavored skewers, and some clay pot stew combined with winter melon that had been cooked until it was soft. A variety of simple and mostly unflavoured dishes were lined up before Ashiyowa. However, the kitchen still insisted at least on the elegant presentation of the food, using elaborate techniques to carve the vegetables and decorate the plates.
“I-it’s the palace!!!”
Ashiyowa’s eyes widened at the sight of a Ryokuen, reimagined with a green vegetable called Homeisho.
The tableware the Emperor used was made of gold. He demanded the same for his brother and was delighted that they were eating with matching chopsticks. Ashiyowa picked up a small bowl and was surprised at how heavy it was. Out of curiosity, he decided to ask.
“Ah, that’s because it’s made of gold.”
And then, pretending that he hadn’t asked, Ashiyowa quickly returned the small bowl to the table as if he had touched something hot.
The Emperor recommended some sake to Ashiyowa.
“Sake? — Oh, sake.”
The Emperor himself poured him a cup and Ashiyowa placed it gently to his mouth, tasting it slowly.
“How is it?”
Ashiyowa twisted his neck and then turned his eyes, wide open, toward the Emperor.
“Ah! Somehow, my throat and chest are hot!!!”
“Don’t worry. Sake is supposed to warm your body from the inside. Here, would you like a little more?”
Upon being refused, the Emperor decided that, if sake was no good, it was time to bring out some desserts. He clapped his hands together.
“This is chocolate. It’s very sweet and nourishing.”
On a large golden plate, a small, well-shaped piece of dark brown chocolate stared up at Ashiyowa. The Emperor took a piece and tasted it.
“It’s delicious. How about it, would you like to try a bite?”
The Emperor stared at him in anticipation, and Ashiyowa could only nod his head in defeat, wearing an expression that seemed to say, ‘Will you let me go if I eat the chocolate?’ Perhaps it was because of the alcohol, he felt bold enough to throw a huge chunk of chocolate into his mouth. His cheeks swelled as he rolled the chocolate around in his mouth.
The few servants attending to them and guards protecting the room were smiling along with the Emperor when Ashiyowa, who had been melting the chocolate in his mouth, suddenly leaned forward and put his hands in front of his mouth.
“I-It’s too big…!”
“It’s fine to spit it out. Spit it out!”
Ashiyowa tried pushing it out by moving his tongue, but despite his efforts, he couldn’t seem to spit it out. It was stuck. Suffocated and in tears, he looked up to see the Emperor patting his back.
And then, the Emperor brought his lips to Ashiyowa’s. As he slipped his tongue in, he was greeted by a sweet taste.
He stretched his tongue further, searching for the largest mass of chocolate to draw it out, muffling Ashiyowa’s voice.
As he took the chocolate into his mouth and peeled his lips off Ashiyowa’s, he found remains of the dark brown chocolate smeared over Ashiyowa’s mouth.
Ashiyowa was panting heavily, his lips shining with chocolate and saliva.
“Aniue, are you alright?”
Ashiyowa nodded, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Though this of course just smeared the chocolate further across his lips.
The white cloth offered by a servant remained unnoticed by Ashiyowa, still pure white.3
“T-Thank you. Ah, I left some behind.”
As he said that, Ashiyowa reached out to the Emperor’s lips and brushed away the remains of the kiss with his fingers.
“That was a bit too big4… It was more painful than sweet, huh?”
Ashiyowa stared at his fingers, dirtied by the chocolate, and let out a shy laugh. And that was all it took for the Emperor to lose all restraint.
Hasr: Evelet to the rescue! Hope you enjoyed the puns here~