Author: Kiyo Date (伊達きよ)
T/N: I changed how ppl address Li Huang. Since he is a prince, it’s actually wrong to refer to him as “lord”, so I changed all the “Lord Li Huang”s to “Prince Li Huang”.
“Life isn’t over until you give up on yourself.” – Tamisha Iman
Within the realm of possibility
The current reigning emperor’s magical element was Gold. Using Gold magic, with minerals as its basis, a sorcerer could congeal objects, and strengthen its components. Gold sorcery’s primary function was to amplify and strengthen. This intensification could be extended to sorcery itself. If Gold sorcery was combined with magic based on other elements, that magic could be intensified.
The Emperor put his possession of the Gold element to good use and was able to amplify the other latent elements within his body. Not all Masters of Gold Sorcery were able to do this. Only somebody not fully human like the Emperor would be able to do such a thing.
However, even he wasn’t able to perfectly make use of all the elements in this way. His magic abilities for the elements other than Gold were as good as those of senior sorcerers of their respective elements. He wasn’t able to manipulate Earth magic, though, since this element wasn’t in his body to start with.
So this emperor had a grasp over all the elements except for Earth. On top of that, he was able to tell somebody’s magical alignment without a magic crystal. He only had to hold his hand to somebody’s head to feel the flow of their magical powers.
He had done this with Sestu. Well actually, he had tried to. Since this may be the person who would one day stand beside his son, he had thought to check on his element and quantity of magical power by reaching out his hand. But what he had sensed then, was magical force like he had never felt before. Among the Five Elements, there was only one that could react this strongly to his Gold sorcery.
As he was a student of Xiao Ya’s, there was no doubt that he had already undergone his magical evaluation. No reports of somebody possessing that element had reached the Emperor, however. It was outrageous for his son to keep this a secret from him.
As he didn’t want to discuss this delicate issue there and then, he kept his demeanor calm as he left for the castle.
“So when His Majesty the Emperor touched my forehead, he did it to find out my element? So he knows I have Earth?”
“That is correct.”
They were supposed to explain to him about this marriage business, but Setsu remembered that they hadn’t had dinner yet. If dinner was delayed, it would affect his digestion, and that would impact his sleep. Since he couldn’t bear to let that happen, he had them eat dinner first. When they had finished (since Li Huang didn’t eat anything that hadn’t been tested for poisoning first, he didn’t eat with them), (but since he looked really hungry…), they finally started to discuss.
Li Huang told Setsu what the Emperor had told him.
“He knows you’re not from Gwidada, and he also knows you’re not related to Xiao Ya.”
“It seems that His Majesty investigated Xiao Ya’s family lineage after he met you the other day.”
Setsu listened wide-eyed as Li Huang told him, and thought back on his audience earlier today.
After feeling the Earth magic inside Sestu, the Emperor had immediately researched his background. But no matter how hard he looked, there was nothing to find. So next he had looked into Xiao Ya’s family. But there was no corresponding offspring to be found in Xiao Ya’s family tree.
Sitting on his throne and studying the document with Xiao Ya’s family tree, he had called out to Li Huang. “He’s not anywhere on here. Who the hell is he?,” he had demanded. Li Huang, and Xiao Ya, who had also been summoned to wait on them, gave up on keeping up the pretenses then. They weren’t able to deceive the Emperor.
And so Li Huang had confessed everything. That Setsu had been summoned from another world, and that it was as the Emperor suspected; Setsu was an Earth sorcerer. And, that he was Li Huang’s Destined Mate.
Listening from his throne, the Emperor thought for a short while. Then he clapped his hands together, and with a look as though this had nothing to do with him, asked “So when is the wedding?”
“We-, ‘wedding’? No, no no, wait…”
“He possesses the Earth element, and he is the crown prince’s Destined Mate. There couldn’t be any better news for Lan Huang. What’s there to wait for?”
The emperor cocked his head in puzzlement at Li Huang’s hesitation. Li Huang and Setsu were two Destined Mates in love. And Setsu possessed the Earth element. This was a godsend for Lan Huang. Whether they were emperors or crown princes, the members of the Imperial family didn’t always meet their Destined Mates. He may be from a different world, but he possessed the element that Lan Huang’s people had been waiting for for thousands of years. If he weren’t the emperor he’d be jumping around with delight.
“But, look, he’s from a different world, and…”
“There have been Destined Mates from other worlds before. The reason why you even tried to summon him was because you already knew this. Am I wrong?”
“Well, yes…. But, I am also still in a child’s body, so…”
“You may well transform after the wedding.”
“Are you saying Setsu doesn’t know he’s your Mate?”
“No, he knows. But…”
“And he’s in love with you, right?”
The Emperor was waiting for Li Huang’s affirmation, but no reply was coming. Slowly, the huge smile on the Emperor’s smile retreated.
“…. Li Huang? I’ve never seen you this inarticulate before…. Don’t tell me…”
“…Well, um… about that…”
“….you’re not in love with each other?”
The Emperor’s eyebrows frowned at Li Huang. He looked over to Xiao Ya who stood behind Li Huang, and asked him the same thing. “They’re not in love?”
“I fear…., um, …not… not yet…”
In consideration for Li Huang, he had replied “not yet”, suggesting that it might still come to that. Xiao Ya had recently noticed Li Huang’s feelings towards Setsu. The way it was so obvious on Li Huang’s face, it would have been strange if he hadn’t.
“Huh?! Your Destined Mate is right there and you’re not in love?… Maybe it’s because you still have a child’s body…What is it with you, Li Huang…”
The Emperor’s reaction very much ruined the effects of Xiao Ya’s considerate approach. Li Huang’s mouth twitched at the Emperor’s tactless remark.
The Emperor held up a hand to signal a “wait a minute”, and held out his other hand. He shook his head, his face contorted as though he was chewing on something very bitter.
“So… this boy was summoned here out of nowhere and is now studying hard to become a sorcerer even though he’s not even in love with you?”
“….What an awfully sweet child.”
Yes. Setsu had never complained about being so abruptly summoned and having to study Earth sorcery. Instead he graciously compiled with everything. He was learning the language, he studied about Lan Huang, all of it. He was thankful for being provided for and being able to take magic lessons and to study things he didn’t know about. Li Huang was grateful for Setsu’s efforts, and wanted to help to make his life as easy as possible.
“…Li Huang. You’re treating him kindly, aren’t you? You’re always so unsociable…”
Li Huang wasn’t able to respond to the Emperor’s question.
When they had first met, the frustration over not being able to become an adult, on top of Setsu’s eccentric character had made him tell Setsu he’d be sent back on the next double full moon. He hadn’t even offered him his name. When he thought about it now, it had been rather cruel of him. No matter what type of personality somebody else had, it didn’t justify selfish behavior.
“Hm? What is it? What did you do?”
“… I didn’t turn into my adult form… so,.. I told him I had no use for him, and that I’d send him back on the next double full moon….”
Setsu hadn’t been bothered by that (is what Li Huang had heard later), but it didn’t change the fact Li Huang had said it.
When the Emperor heard Li Huang’s words, he reclined on his throne and looked up towards the heavens.
“Well… That would explain why he’s not in love with you. You’re obsessed with becoming an adult, and that makes you hot-headed. But that’s not his fault.”
“…I don’t know what to tell you.”
This wasn’t the only reason why Li Huang and Setsu weren’t in love with each other, but Li Huang still felt that the Emperor was right. He couldn’t say anything back, since he was so ashamed of himself.
Now that the Emperor had a good grasp of the situation, he folded his arms and hummed.
“That boy has no good reason to be here. If he desires to return home, I want to let him go. But as the emperor of this country, I can’t allow that. We need him to regulate the Lu Huang.”
He looked uneasy as he unfolded his arms. His long fingers tapped on the throne’s armrest.
“And even if we don’t think about his use for Lan Huang, two Destined Mates make one perfect pair. Being together is advantageous for both of you. That’s why I don’t think sending him back is necessarily the best thing for him. If only he were in love..”
The Emperor propped his elbow on the armrest and rested his chin on his fist. He thought like that for a while, and then shot a fleeting glance at Li Huang.
“Well it was plain to see… Li Huang, you do like Setsu right?”
“I… I can’t speak to whether I like him or not but… he’s.. a good person…”
Even this late in the game, Li Huang still didn’t understand his own feelings, and so his response was evasive. When the Emperor heard his ambiguity, he sternly pointed at him.
“You like him. Good. Come next double full moon, the two of you will be in love then.”
Li Huang’s mouth hung open at the Emperor’s sudden words. Without paying any mind to his son, the Emperor proudly puffed out his chest.
“The wedding ceremony will be held on the day of the next double full moon.”
Li Huang raised his hands to try and reign the Emperor in. It seemed like this conversation had progressed far too quickly. But the Emperor just repeated what he had said.
“Magic powers are at their height when we have a double full moon. It’s an auspicious day for a wedding.”
“Y-, Your Majesty?”
The next double full moon? Li Huang had told Setsu he’d send him back on that day.
Li Huang felt like he was swimming. He desperately called out to the Emperor again, but he didn’t give him any reply. Instead the Emperor raised his voice again and spoke:
“However! On the day of the double full moon, I will let Sestu decide whether or not he wants to have the ceremony be held.”
Li Huang felt that he was overpowered and swallowed.
“If you and Setsu are Destined Mates and your souls are attracted to each other, once you’ve formed a bond, you must not be separated again. But if it doesn’t come to such a bond… It will be best to accept that your fates aren’t tied together after all.”
That is what Destined Mates were. Two people whose fates were undoubtedly one, just as it had been with the two creator dragons. The two of them had become one. The two purely exist for each other’s sakes, and being separated would destroy both of them. But even if Li Huang and Setsu were connected by that power, if they didn’t have a bond, they were not true Destined Mates.
“Tell Setsu that your wedding date has been set. Tell him the Emperor wills it so. Setsu, the Destined Mate that possesses the Earth element, and Li Huang, the crown prince, will be joined together as quickly as possible, yes? Now that the two of you are betrothed, Setsu will be forced to be more conscious of you Li Huang.”
It might be a bit sly, but the Emperor just shrugged. He let out a small sigh when he saw his son’s red and scrunched up face.
“That should give you an advantage, Li Huang…. If that won’t do it, it may just be a lost cause…”
Thus, Li Huang’s and Setsu’s wedding was officially decided upon. In truth however, Setsu would have the last say about whether the two of them would be married or not, and should he refuse, his refusal would be accepted.
According to the Emperor’s command, Setsu was told that the Emperor wished for him and Li Huang to marry as soon as possible, and that the ceremony would thus be held on the day of the next double full moon. Setsu was surprised, but it had seemed as though he would consent to the plan.
Li Huang had expected some resistance, but Setsu didn’t seem to have any objections. Li Huang and Xiao Ya exchanged a look.
“You are fine with it?”
Setsu tilted his head like he didn’t understand. Li Huang kept rearranging his legs and acted as though nothing was out of the ordinary. He cleared his throat.
“With… uhm, m-marrying….me.”
Setsu didn’t seem to notice how Li Huang was trying to act unaffected.
“Yes. I accept.”
Li Huang was surprised at how easily Setsu nodded. His face started to brighten up. The fact that he agreed to marry him so easily might mean that Setsu liked him too. The thought that Setsu might like him back made his heart flutter warm and pleasantly inside his chest.
“Because we’re Destined Mates, yes.”
Li Huang had wanted to say “Because you like me”, but when he heard what Setsu said, he shut his mouth.
“‘Destines Mates are two that are one. They shall not be separated, for they cannot bear to be severed. Like the creator dragons, they shall be together, and they shall prosper together. That is the way of Destined Mates.’ That is what the texts say, right?”
What Setsu had recited was the definition of Destined Mates as it was written in Lan Huang’s ancient manuscripts. His studies had been much more in depth than what Li Huang and Xiao Ya had assumed. He knew exactly what Destined Mates were.
“I’m surprised because it’s sooner than I expected, but I thought a wedding was certainly within the realm of possibility.”
He was looking rather pleased with himself now that his prediction had fulfilled itself. Li Huang let his shoulders hang in disappointment. Setsu hadn’t agreed to the wedding due to any feelings for Li Huang. He had diligently studied and assumed that it might come to this, and he had already accepted that this was their fate as Destined Mates. In short, He agreed to marry me because he thinks it’s his duty, Li Huang thought dejectedly. He wondered since when Setsu had come to this conclusion.
Destined Mates couldn’t be separated. And if his Destined Mate was some other country’s crown prince, and they married, it meant that he couldn’t just return home to his own world. Setsu was accepting of this.
But that would mean that he would have to leave his old lifestyle behind. Did that mean he didn’t have a family to go back to? Things that were precious to him, a job, a lover? He was willing to leave all of that behind to help Li Huang out by marrying him?
Li Huang lifted his head to look at Setsu. While he had been immersed in thought, Xiao Ya and Setsu had been talking to each other. Setsu was smiling at Xiao Ya, without any trace of discontent, anxiety, or regret on his face. What was he really thinking, Li Huang wondered.
When Li Huang called his name, Setsu turned to look at him.
“Yes, Your Highness?”
“…tomorrow, after our usual language practice, I’d like to spend some time with you.”