The Royal Palace

宮殿

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Chapter Six: Mischievous Plan Begins

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"I'd be glad to take over your place if I could. She's a catch!"

Rukawa put down his laptop and went nearer to his cousin. "Come again?"

"Forget it. I know you're quite possessive."

"No. I… have a proposal for you, Akira."

"What's that?" he asked. "Need help or something about women?"

He nodded. "Yes. Free me from this engagement."

"Kaede, are you nuts? There's no backing out here, you know!" Sendoh sighed. "Your plan sounds absurd and dangerous to me…" he shrugged his shoulders.

Rukawa smirked. "There is a way… if only you could make her fall for you and be the new crown prince."

"What?!" Sendoh stood up in utter surprise. "You're kidding me…"

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Rukawa laughed. "You looked so surprised. You already knew what I could possibly do, right? I gotta stop this wedding."

Dragging me to the throne this time so suddenly… Sendoh thought. "You can't do that and disgrace the family… and the Chrysanthemum Throne!" he exclaimed. "Why… why didn't you disagree at the first place?"

Rukawa placed his fingers in his chin and thought for a while. "Let's see… at first, I want the elders to grant me the Shūgaku-in Imperial Villa as a wedding gift. I want to live there and get away from Kokyo for a while. It's boring here."

"Then I found out that the one I'm going to marry is a Korean, and she is a commoner, so I thought it was interesting." He continued. "But I was bummed. It's so hard to get along with her."

"Finally, it's so good to make fun of her because she's so clumsy and all that. Her frailness somewhat amuses me, and if this continues, the elders will then realize how bad she is for the title as Crown Princess and future Empress."

Sendoh clutched his fists. "What? Are you that cruel now that you've grown up, Kaede? Do you realize how cruel those things you told me are?"

Sendoh grabbed his collar and when he was to punch him, he restrained himself. "I can't believe you. Making a fragile woman suffer like that, you must be crazy."

He stormed off his room and left his cousin. He thought about the Princess, and he shook his head. That person… he's so heartless. How could he do that to a woman? I got to talk to her. But then, I know that he's really hiding something. There's something more than those reasons. Ah! Mean me. I know now why he's doing this…

When he wandered around the vicinity, he saw Ji-Hyun sitting by the garden.

"Hi there, Princess Ji-Hyun!"

Ji-Hyun glanced his way. She was surprised that he knew her already, and when she saw him, she recalled. "Hello…"

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"I'm Kaede's cousin. I just came from England." He introduced formally. "I heard that you're his fiancée."

She nodded. "Yeah, sorta... He doesn't want us to marry though. And as for me… I…" she stopped when Sendoh interrupted her.

"What do you mean? Come on, cheer up. I know he's like a heartless guy, but the truth is, he's caring deep inside. He likes you."

Ji-Hyun smiled falsely. "Is that… what you think it is?"

"I guess there's another reason why he doesn't want to marry you at all." He replied. "This just came in to my mind, and I suppose I owe him an apology. I said rude things to him earlier."

Ji-Hyun cocked her head towards him. "Huh? So you knew…"

"Actually, I personally think that he doesn't want you to become a Palace Ceremonial Doll…"

Ji-Hyun didn't get his words at all. Still, he wanted to tell Sendoh what the truth is. "No. It's not that."

"Huh?" Sendoh attentively gazed at her.

"I… I saw him… He was proposing to another woman the other day and I can tell from his actions that he is really in love with her. Yeah. Who would not love a pretty woman like her?"

Sendoh clutched his fists and he stood up. "I wonder what's really wrong with that guy!" Sendoh exclaimed. "He did that? Was he aware you, his fiancée, are present?"

"At first, I just snooped. If it wasn't that way, then I wouldn't hurt myself this way, right? It's my fault. I just think I'm one big obstacle for their love and…"

Sendoh shook his head. "No you're not, because Rukawa-no-miya isn't the only one worthy of the crown. Someone else could take it from him."

Ji-Hyun was surprised to hear that from him. "I'm sorry, but I can't relate to Royal matters…" she chuckled. "You see, I'm not someone who grew up royally…"

Her smile was gentle, and that took much of Sendoh's attention. He stared at her in awe, thinking it's a waste that a person like her be not a part of their family. Much more, it hurts him that his cousin, the one he thinks that's worthy of the throne, who did something horrible to her.

"Don't feel bad about it. I'll do something." He said as he grinned at her. Ji-Hyun just bowed, and she said she has to go.

Rukawa passed by after Ji-Hyun left. Sendoh called him up.

"Kaede." He began. "Fine, I agree on your proposal. But this time, there's no backing out whatever happens. We'll agree on this and we should have no regrets."

Rukawa smirked. "As expected," he began "I accept that, Sendoh-no-miya. Soon, you'll be in the verge of stepping up to the crown."

"If you'll really do this, you will expect that I will get the throne easily." Sendoh explained as-a-matter-of-factly. "I'm now 18. You're just 17, and the throne can be easily removed from you without much ado. I studied the by-laws of our family. I also heard from Anzai-san that you were placed as the Crown Prince earlier since uncle has a disease…"

"You sure are knowledgeable, my dear cousin." He chuckled. "Yeah. That angered me too."

Sendoh sighed. The air of seriousness between them disappeared. "You kid. This was grandpa's request. You should at least acknowledge him. I'll tolerate you this time, but if I see her hurting, I'll stop." He stepped away.

Rukawa tugged his arm. "Her? You mean… loud-mouth?"

"Stop calling women names. Not only she's someone foreign, but she's your fiancée!" Sendoh lectured him.

"Okay."

"Good."

Rukawa broke a smile. "Thanks, Akira."

"No problem." Sendoh grinned. "See ya. I still have some things to arrange before my transfer."

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Sendoh shook his head. "No you're not, because Rukawa-no-miya isn't the only one worthy of the crown. Someone else could take it from him."

Ji-Hyun sighed the nth time. 'This mustn't be the thing I'm worrying about. Why would I care if Ru-oppa loses the battle for that throne anyway? Besides… nothing will be my loss.'

She looked outside her window and saw her ladies-in-waiting coming. She stepped out of the room and greeted them.

"Konnichiwa, ladies!"

Her ladies-in-waiting all were flustered by her casual greeting. "You are not supposed to call us that way, Your Highness." Their senior bowed down with utter respect, and the rest followed. Ji-Hyun gave them a warm smile, and they all followed her to the dinner table.

Again, Ji-Hyun could imagine how boring it would be since it would be Rukawa and her again, nonetheless. This time, she was surprised that someone else came to join their meal.

"His Imperial Highness Sendoh would like to join us." Rukawa formally announced. "Beginning today, he'd be a part of our meals. I supposed you have met him earlier."

Sendoh winked at her as if he's telling her something.

'Is he trying to tell me that I would just play along or something?' she thought. 'Let's see…'

"Wow! Sen-oppa will be here?" she smiled happily. "Yay! I just love to be with his presence."

"What does oppa actually mean, Ji-Hyun?" Sendoh curiously asked. "You also add that to Kaede's name."

She smiled. "It is some sort of a prefix added to someone dear to you."

Rukawa casted his glance aside. Yeah right, witch.

"… but now that Sen-oppa's here, I'd like to call you that way. And then I'd drop the –oppa on Rukawa's name." she smiled warmly at him. Rukawa twitched his mouth—as if he wants to say something.

Sendoh grinned. "Alright then, but what if you call me with that by my real name? You know, Akira."

"Would it be nice if it be Aki-oppa?"

"No worries! That was better, actually." Sendoh told her as he chuckled. "You're such an interesting person, Ji-Hyun. I hope we hang out more often."

Rukawa sighed. Akira, aren't you overdoing this? He noticed how gentlemanly his gestures to her are. It's funny watching someone engaged to you drawing closer to your most favourite cousin, and the fact that you are the one making them together…

He shook away all thoughts. "Whatever." He muttered to himself. "If this continues, no wonder Ji-Hyun the witch will accept him, and together they can be the Crown Prince and Princess."

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TO BE CONTINUED

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