Hello! The next chapter might take a little bit longer again, so take your time reading this one. Thank you as always for reading and leaving comments!
Author: Kiyo Date (伊達きよ)
When he walked out from the densely growing trees, the fallen leaves caught on to his feet, and Setsu lost his footing. Stumbling, his body leaned to the right side towards a steep cliff next to the path. He couldn’t let himself fall but unfortunately there was nothing to hold onto.
Li Huang reached out a hand towards Setsu. Just as Setsu was about to fall down the cliff, Li Huang grabbed onto his wrist. But Li Huang’s strength was not enough to support him, so his body was being pulled towards the cliff as well. He was about to cast an aviation spell, but he sensed a loss of control over his magic, and was forced to suppress it with a grunt. Without his magical powers, all the physical strength that was left to him was that of a young boy. There was no way Li Huang could haul up somebody of Setsu’s weight.
Whoever’s cry it was, it was a desperate shriek, and the two of them both fell down the cliff.
How did they end up in a situation like this? For that answer we have to go back to this morning…
Ten days had passed, but the Emperor still hadn’t returned to the castle.
Naturally there was a lot of work for him to attend to outside the castle. The dragon emperor’s of Lan Huang and their families held the power to control the weather. They were committed to ensuring that all regions had enough rain according to the seasons, so that the crops could prosper. Therefore the whole country had to be visited. Naturally, touring the country was also an opportunity to visit and the various lords, attend rituals, and display the power the dragons held at the same time. The emperors of Lan Huang went on royal progresses like that exceedingly often, since travelling didn’t take a long time once they took on their dragon forms.
Accordingly, Setsu, who’s Language Conversion spell still hadn’t been lifted, had been learning new magic at quite the speed. He had learned the basics of Earth magic even before the next double full moon.
Having acquired the basics of Earth magic meant that it had now finally become possible to calm the rough flow of the Lu Huang. This was not done by using Earth magic to built a dam for example. The Lu Haung couldn’t be brought back to its original flow by any physical machinations. If it were possible to to that, somebody would already have done it these past thousand years.
What had to be done was to fix the flow by casting spells to work like dams. First, the water would have to be held by the protection magic, which Earth magic was based on. After that, spells would have to be cast to regulate the waters flow. In the days where there had been Masters of Earth Sorcery, they had controlled the rivers flow in this way. It wasn’t a one-off kind of affair, however, it had to be done in regular intervals. Like the river’s flow itself, the magic controlling it could not be static either.
The vestiges of the magic that was cast a thousand years ago where still detectable in the river.
However, after getting to this level, a problem arose. It was clear that the Earth magic had to be directly applied to the river, but no matter how far they went back in the documents, there was no clear information written about where and how to cast the spells. The details remained unknown. Considering how important the matter was for the country, it was strange that there was no written information preserved. Even if the Earth sorcerers had been gone for so long. Li Huang and Xiao Ya hadn’t looked into this matter and tried to research until now, because neither one of them had expected there to be another person wielding the Earth Element. And now that they where researching and there was nothing to be found, their work came to a stand still. They had tried to consult the Emperor, but he didn’t know much more than them either. Unfortunately the last Earth sorcerer had lived long before the current Emperor had been borne. All they knew now was that Earth magic had to be cast on the Lu Huang.
Li Huang and Xiao Ya counseled together with Setsu as to what should be done now. If they publicly disclosed that Setsu possessed the Earth Element, a, inquiry commission could be formed to research the relation between Earth magic and the Lu Huang. That way they could profit from the help of experts on the matter. But due to the special circumstances, this wasn’t possible. Until he made his decision on the day of the next double full moon, it still wasn’t clear whether Setsu would stay with them or not (even though Setsu didn’t know about the choice that he had). Even though he had acknowledged their wedding date, the chance of him returning to his original world wasn’t zero. If they made an official announcement now, and he did decide to return to his world later, the unsuspecting people might try to interfere. Li Huang wanted to avoid this.
After talking this over for a long while, they agreed on trying to use the the Earth magic on the Lu Huang even without having any clear instructions, until the time of the double full moon came when magical powers would be at their height.
It was the morning of the day that they had decided on to cast magic on th eLu Huang river. Li Huang, Xiao Ya, and Setsu had assembled at the riverside pavillion where Li Huang and Setsu usually practiced.
“…Setsu, that headgear… are you actually going to wear it?”
“Of course. The weather is nice today, no clouds. If I have nothing to block the sun light, the UV rays will be too strong. If you’re thinking about skin protection, there’s nothing better than a hat.”
Setsu hummed smugly at Li Huang’s words.
Figuring that the best place to cast the magic would be as far upstream as possible, the three of them had decided to enter the mountains behind the castle, where the rivers source was thought to be.
“But Prince Li Huang, this is great. It staves off the sunlight, and when you add a cooling spell it’s really quite pleasant.”
Setsu had made a hat for Xiao Ya as well. On top of the spells, it was stylishly made, and Xiao Ya had really taken a liking to it.
“You too?” Li Huang’s body language asked, as he let his head hang.
“When the court ladies saw Setsu wearing it, they wanted one too. It’s become a fashion among the castle folk as of late. The court ladies have a very good sense of fashion, so whatever they like becomes popular right away.”
It was true. The lace hat that Setsu liked to wear had been further improved with magic to be even more user-friendly. When the court ladies had laid their eyes on it, they had asked Setsu to please make ones for them too. Quickly more people started to wear them, new designs were added, and other people started making their own versions as well. There was a little boom happening with them. “Whatever world it is, where ever I go is where the latest trends come about!” happily gloated Setsu, who was the one to start it all.
At any rate, ever since this development, Setsu had gained the court ladies approval, and they would come to visit him often during his breaks in between magic lessons, to ask him about his beauty and workout regimens. The once quiet gardens had become a lively place. Even the people who had stopped visiting after Setsu’s Language Conversion had started to come by again, finally realizing things like “He is the same as before”, “He is a weirdo but is that really so bad?”, “He is a little domineering, but he’s also endearing and full of surprises”, and “He is just ‘Setsu’ but I kin dof feel like calling him ‘Lord’…”. Of course there were also people that hadn’t come back. People who could not accept Setsu for who he really was. But the people that came to the gardens were generally enamoured by him. And in a way, Setsu seemed even more happy now than before Xiao Ya thought full of joy.
“Since the matter with the hats transpired, Setsu has really become popular in the castle. Everybody like to come to our practice and enjoy the sweets he’s made during his breaks. The court ladies bring things to, so it’s a real get-together every day, and…”
“…Everyday? Sweets that he makes himself?”
Li Huang’s eyebrows twitched up at Xiao Ya’s utterances. Xiao Ya who had gotten carried away by his own story, abruptly shut his mouth at Li Huang’s words. He knew that Li Huang was wanting to try some of Setsu’s sweets, but hadn’t gotten the chance yet. He started to break out in cold sweat as he realized that it might not have been a good idea to let Li Huang know about this, but then Setsu spoke up animatedly.
“Come to think of it, Your Highness, you’ve never eaten any of my sweets right? YOu really should taste them sometime. But that’s an issue isn’t it?”
“….Maybe a sorcerer that can use poison detection spells on them could be arranged one of these days.”
After shortly hesitating and then seeing Setsu’s smile, Li Huang had answered. Li Huang couldn’t eat anything that hadn’t been tested by a food taster or a sorcerer before. But he really, really wanted to eat Setsu’s dishes. For this reason, he had hired a sorcerer to wield a Poison Detection spell, that was exclusively used for the imperial family. Just to test a single hand-made sweet. If the Emperor or anyone else found out, they might make fun of him, but he was willing to accept that risk. It was a mix of good and bad feelings he had to chew on.
Watching Li Huang pretending like it wasn’t a big deal, while not being ablet suppress the pleased smile on his face, Xiao Ya sighed. Looking on from the sideline, it was so obvious that the prince had fallen for Setsu. So how could he himself not realize it? Anybody could see Li Huang was in love. Anyone but Li Huang.
If only he could realize his feelings already, convey them to Setsu, and then progress their relationship. But it wasn’t so easy.
And then there was Setsu, whose feelings weren’t clear at all.
When they had first met, he had said that he wasn’t a pedophile, meaning that Li Huang couldn’t be of romantic interest to him. But back then he hadn’t know Li Huang’s actual age. Xiao Ya wondered what how Setsu thought about the matter now.
It was clear that the two of them got along well. That Xiao Ya could tell. He was a true narcissist, but at the same time he was a hard worker, and earnest. Li Huang too, was diligent and earnest, so they had similar attitudes to studying and all manner of other things. And it seemed like they had made a lot of progress with their language lessons. Even though it had been difficult for Li Huang to have a conversation with Sestu due to his personality, but now they were talking all the time and he was enjoying it. Setsu seemed to like talking to Li Huang too. He looked like he was having fun during their daily practices, and he seemed happy to talk to Li Huang outside of studying as well.
They were Destined Mates. It wasn’t supprising that they got along well. ut who could say if that chemistry could turn into romantic feelings?
Come to think of it, Xiao Ya remembered the words Li Huang had let slip out earlier:
‘Setsu’s fascinated by the Emperor’
The first time Setsu had met the Emperor, Xiao Ya hadn’t noticed anything since he had his head bowed low. But according to Li Huang, Setsu had “stared at him feverishly”. Maybe he liked the way he looked, Li Huang had said. A tall, well-built, adult man. The total opposite of child-like Li Huang. He hadn’t asked Setsu about it, and so he didn’t know whether that was the truth or not. But if it was, it was a hard and terrible blow to Li Huang. It meant that as long as he was in a child’s body, there was no way for him to charm Setsu. Li huang paled in comparison to somebody like the Emperor. And maybe this was part of the reason why he didn’t acknowledge his feelings.
In any event, it would be nice if there was anything to help them progress in their relationship, Xiao Ya thought.
“So, let’s get going then.”
Li Huang gave a fleeting glance up at the sky as he spoke. Setsu and Xiao Ya looked at each other, then nodded as one.