Edited by Kimono Jiem
Note 1: Please click on the character name for their illustrations, if any.
Note 2: Corrected the Protoss elder princess’ name: Micha’el; corrected the Protoss younger princess’ name: Charlotte
Note 3: An editable text of this chapter, click here.
Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Marfa, Jack, Wilder, Moya: Cohen’s childhood friends and firm supports.
- Fischer Summers: Cohen’s friend and the prince of the Swabia Empire.
- Charlotte Knarch: The Protoss younger princess.
- LeToux: A prince of Tansey Empire
- Ribera: A prince of Symbia Empire.
We were overjoyed to tour the garden with the goddess. Thus, we all nodded in agreement and waited for Princess Charlotte to take the lead. Though I felt great excitement over the tour, my eagerness was dampened after considering that it may turn out to be another test for us.
I noticed behind Princess Charlotte was a maiden carrying a large vase and another who held a tray containing several golden scissors.
Oh, God, it seemed like there would be an upcoming ikebana event. I wished that she would not pick me later on, lest I execute an act that I was not proficient in. I kept on picking the flowers I spotted and fancied before putting it into my pocket.
It was a short journey to the garden. Princess Charlotte and the three princes led the group in front, while the rest of the men followed behind, maintaining a certain distance away from them. The distance between them gradually increased till the people leading the group could no longer be seen after taking a turn.
Though I did not know of the situation between the princes and Princess Charlotte, the people within our bureaucrat group did not share any friendly glances.
They had some nerve to glare at me. I would teach them a lesson but to start with whom was the question.
I hinted at my brothers before making my way in between the two men from the Symbia empire.
“Ah, bro…” I bumped my chest into the one on the left who looked like a robed civil servant, “Such an excellent taste for clothing and that choice of color. How I envy you.”
“Indeed, such good taste!”
My brothers praised.
“It’s the outfit given to us by the temple.” That Symbian civil guy froze for a moment, “We all have the same one. What difference is there to see about the color of the robe?”
“The one on you just looks so different…” I pointed on his robe, “Bro, your figure is slim and fit. This makes you appear more natural and elegant than others.Furthermore, your dashing disposition is something that we simply cannot attain…”
“Natural and elegant, handsome like hell!”
“What a great disposition!”
He froze once again and was left speechless but still kept his guard up.
However, my expression became ever so sincere, “I am a civil servant like you, but why is it that I am made to wear a suit of armor?”
He shook his head.
“During the bath, the robe they gave me didn’t resemble yours one bit!” I said resentfully, “It didn’t fit my physique at all. How could I possibly show myself to the princesses in that sort of get-up? Without a choice, I had to wear this heavy armor! Brother, I can see how you are truly valued by the temple from the quality of your robe.”
“See: the cloth, snitches, edges and collar…” I commented while leaning forward and whispered into his ear, “Let’s work together and get rid of the Tansey people!”
“Ah, yes, of course!” He already had such poor thoughts in his mind and was naturally enlightened in an instant, acting like he was a close friend of mine, “You’re right; it does stand out! Thank you for pointing it out!”
“But before that,” My hand latched onto his collar and I grinned, “I’ll have to get rid of you…”
Seeing my fingers clutched onto his collar, his expression became terrified. After several moments of the sound of fabric tearing, his linen robe had a cut ranging from his collar to his stomach.
“Ah, bro!” I stepped back away from him and yelled frightfully, “Your robe is torn!”
“You! You… I… I…”
He lamented over the torn pieces of cloth and covered his exposed chest with both hands helplessly. His eyes flashed with pure innocence.
The other Symbian military officer turned around immediately to see what had happened. His look of anxiety drove me to leave him then and there.
“Broken! It’s broken!”
“What should we do?”
While my brothers jeered, they painted on the silver armor of the Symbian military officers who arrived afterwards with black.
Amongst all the paintings, the largest and thickest one was the handiwork of Moya. Wilder just painted in random motions. Similar to what I had done, Jack painted the words ‘I LOVE ***’.
The two Tansey men was unaware of what had conspired. The only thing they managed to witness was all of us retreating to reveal the two weeping men with messy appearances. Thus, they gazed at each other but refused to walk with us and continued to stride ahead of us.
I continued to advance with my brothers with the intention to get rid of the other two guys before the hype died down.
However, the Tansian men kept their distance away from us and would rather die than let us approach them. They must have thought of doing so to ensure their safety. But, is it truly safe?
Harrumph! I will show you the ruthlessness of my actions.
The two kept eyeing us as they strode ahead. They slowed down when we slowed our pace and quickened their steps when we quickened ours.
I grinned and gathered my brothers around for a discussion. The four us had our heads together and whispered to one another, raising our head to glimpse over at them viciously from time to time. It frightened them and made them act as if every bush and tree in the vicinity were their enemies.
Such kind of trick was no stranger to anyone who grew up in the marketplace. When children screwed around together, the tricks they had up their sleeves to mess people up were boundless. However, acting out a play like this was then a skill used for isolation, deception and intimidation.
Alas, these meager tricks were unable to be seen through by the nobility who grew up in high walls. As toddlers, they played with their toys of silver. They spoke in poetic verses at the age they started to run and lusted after authority and sex when they learned how to jump. It must be acknowledged that Fischer’s cunning nature as of today was fostered by my constant trickery and the things I’ve taught him. Before he was under my tutelage, he was as much of an imbecile as the lot of nobility here.
What was more important was to take advantage of these tricks. It required one’s commitment to the intricacies of language, expression and action using their heart and soul. Seamless cooperation between allies was of immense importance.
For example, those two men had turned into fidgety birds that constantly turned around in panic. They anticipated the upcoming storm to hit them, and the wait was done with anguish. Such feelings were amplified when they came across such a storm that they had never encountered before.
We were near the garden and a row of green foliage lined it.. Their tender shoots intercrossed and formed a low hedge that encircled the garden.
I told my brothers my plan with a lowered voice and they agreed compliantly. Then, the four of us slowed down and fixed our gaze onto the two bureaucrats from Tansey. I bet they must have felt the chilly murderous looks we were sending them.
Those two knew they couldn’t be careless at this point of time. Thus, they turned around to face us and walked backward. It was as if we were the hunters and they were our prey.
One of Princess Charlotte’s maid began to approach us due to our extended absence.
The clock was ticking!
“Five… four… three…” I counted out loud using a voice audible to everyone in our vicinity, whereas my brothers had started to make their move. Their eyes glared green and bared their teeth to make themselves look like a hungry tiger. The two extremely frightened imbeciles stepped backward as I counted out loud.
The four of us jumped forward simultaneously.
The two Tansian fools were far too frightened to make a well thought over decision and also leaped backward.
The two focused too much of their attention on us and forgot that they had retreated until the edge of the hedge. It crushed under their weight.
“Ah..” We cried, “Awful…”
I passed by them while praising, “You’ve got some nerve to dare touch the hedge of God!” I strode into the garden.
Moya followed. He was an honest man and truthfully reminded, “Princess Charlotte’s maids are not far behind!”
Wilder was the third to speak and sighed deeply, “Farewell. You’ll be hanged…”
Jack was the last and offered them an idea, “Get those hedges up and tie them together! Hurry up!”
It was a pity that Marfa was not present, or he would have said, “Quickie, quickie! What? You don’t have a rope? Rip your clothes, for god’s sake!”
It seemed like they needed to figure out how to tie the hedge by themselves. Anyhow, our mission was completed. Those four would be out of our sights until the garden trial was finished.
“Governor Cohen,” A maid came over to me and asked, “Where are the others?”
“They said that their appearance was disheveled and needed some time to tidy themselves up.” I replied with a smile, “Are you here to guide us? Let’s get going first. They’re still a bit busy.”
“Sure.” The maid said, “This way, please.”
She led us to waterside pavilion located at the center of the garden. On the stone table in the pavilion stood the big vase.
Deep in the garden, Fischer, LeToux and Ribera were standing by Princess Charlotte’s side while watching her pick out the necessary materials for the upcoming ikebana activity.
Princess Charlotte picked out the materials as she asked them several questions. We were far away from them. Thus, their voices could barely be heard, but the look on the three princes’ face was not that of ease after being inquired by Princess Charlotte.
They seemed to need more time, thus we waited.
Princess Charlotte had finally finished choosing the materials she needed and they returned from the path. She seemed to glimpse me for a second when she reached the waterside pavilion.
To my surprise, she didn’t inquire as to why so many had not made it here. Instead, she ordered the maid to place the basket full of ikebana materials on the stone table to prepare for the activity.
“Everyone, the flowers are hardly ever as gorgeous as today.” Princess Charlotte stood by the table and said, “I suggest we finish the vase of flowers together. You’ll have your pick of the flowers in the garden.”
“Sounds wonderful!” Prince LeToux voiced out promptly, “Please, Your Grace. Have the first flower.”
Princess Charlotte smiled, and then the maid placed a few pots of flowers of various colors on the table.
“The rule is that no matter which flower you decide to use and however you wish to arrange it,” Princess Charlotte firstly placed a few variously shaped shoots into the vase. She had not put in any flowers in y it already appeared sophisticated, “You must explain the implied meaning, or you’ll lose. You will be properly rewarded or punished for winning or losing.”
“I have a habit each time I carry out ikebana. The first flower must be a single colored one.” Princess Charlotte fetched a golden pair of scissors and picked a flower with a white branch and core with red petals. Then, she placed it into the vase, “Done. It is now your turn, Prince Rivera.”
“Yes! Yes, Your Grace…” Prince Rivera retrieved the scissors, only to find that his men were long gone, “I need to search for suitable flowers in the garden.”
Prince Ribera ran back and forth in the garden with his scissors and finally returned with a pile of stuff, just before everybody was about to lose their patience.
“Apologies! I truly am apologetic!” He said intensely, “Had I taken too long?”
“No. You may begin!”
I wonder why Princess Charlotte was being so kind to this idiot?
“This… nope! That… nah!” Prince Rivera put the pile of plants and flowers on top of the stool and began to choose one amongst the pile, “No… no… and no! NO!”
“Ah! There it is!” Ribera yelled, “Done!”
We were looking at a short and thick, yet strangely shaped piece of plant that was inserted into the vase. Before he had placed that thing, Princess Charlotte’s ikebana had slender shoots and perky yet blossoming petals. The sole flower could be seen as one that outshone others. If anyone wished to continue the work, he would need to take caution of the blank spaces, color contrast and uniformity of the work as a whole, regardless of his decision to handle the design of the main focus piece or the supporting foliage.After Prince Rivera placed the giant object by the edge of the vase, the entire concept that Princess Charlotte made was destroyed. How foolish and ugly of a thing he had decided to put in! Even a mundane person would never resort to creating a work as hideous as this in his lifetime. I wondered how many years had he spent fostering his idiocy.
“Prince Rivera.” To my surprise, Princess Charlotte maintained her composure and asked him, “Please explain the reasoning behind the decision you made. Is there any deeper meaning to it?”
“I… that…” Rivera was sweating and said with a harsh tone, “Didn’t the book say that… the flowers need green leaves to amplify their beauty! Her Grace’s design has a deep meaning. That is why my own should not compete against its profundity. I would rather be the leaves that support and show off Princess Charlotte’s benevolence and beauty for eternity!”
I could never imagine that withholding laughter was such a difficult thing. Now, I could tell that the giant object truly did resemble one leaf!
“I wouldn’t go that far for a mere vase of flowers.” Princess Charlotte turned to Prince LeToux and said, “Your turn.”
“Yes, Your Grace.” Prince LeToux fetched the golden scissors, “I would like to fill in a bit more.”
Prince LeToux did not choose to go to the garden. Instead, he took advantage of Prince Rivera’s harvests to trim and adjust. He proceeded according to his will and put one flower after another. Thus, Rivera’s broad weed leaves became the bedding for his flowers.
When he was at his fifth, I realized that that guy had proficiency in ikebana. Every piece of his flowers was placed in a seemingly random order. In actuality, each and every one of them was placed after much consideration. I could tell that he had been honing this skill for quite a while.
What followed next amazed me more; Prince LeToux released a freezing spell that made part of the vegetables stick together and then decorated them with some leaf trunks to complete the look.
However, most of his flowers were not in the ideal spots! If he fixed them in place right at the beginning, how would he manage to adjust them to a more suitable spot?
He held onto the stem of a flower forcefully. It began to emit wisps of smoke. To my surprise, the stem had morphed into the form he desired by simply using a spell.
He circled round the table while the both of his hands were busying themselves. After the incessant trimming, the ikebana of reds and greens was completed. The two centerpiece flowers placed by the left and right of the vase made the design even more vivid
Not only were the two centerpiece flowers placed perfectly, each and every stalk of grass was placed with an equal amount of immaculate consideration. The work had already been finalized and did not have a single spot left for the next person to insert anything else.
But… but… Fischer was still waiting for his turn!
Prince LeToux dropped the scissors, “Done.”
“Please explain the meaning behind it, Prince LeToux.” Princess Charlotte did not comment on his work.
“Yes, Your Grace.” Prince LeToux pointed to the vase and said, “The container has a relatively wider top, thus if there’s only one flower, the result of the work would appear to be rather lonely. The only way to solve it was to add another flower to relate them to one another, which made the stylistic beauty of it as a whole come closer to perfection.”
I… I… I… decided to take the chance!
“I’m sorry!” I raised my hand, “Princess Charlotte, may I be given the permission to speak.”
“Granted.” Princess Charlotte glimpsed over at me, “All who are present are welcomed to add in additional ideas.”
“Prince LeToux,” I said, “Wouldn’t the usage of two flowers confuse the primary and secondary role in this vase? The first flower was placed by Her Grace! How could you place another flower standing upright at the same level as Her Grace’s?”
I was ready to risk it all. I would set him up or jeer at him no matter what it took. However, Fischer remained at ease and stood idly, as if the situation at hand was irrelevant to him.
“Governor Cohen, the distinction between primary and secondary flower is not decided by its height.” Prince LeToux said, “It is correlated with the distinguishment of their colors. The work as a whole uses a color scheme based on the color of the first flower. Furthermore, I am certain that the second centerpiece flower I placed is half an inch lower than the first one.”
I examined the flower arrangement closely and found out it was as he said. It was unavoidable that I felt dejected by it.
“Governor Cohen, perhaps you would like to share more of your experience in ikebana.” Prince LeToux pushed harder, “Would you like to continue?”
“May I?” I looked towards Prince Charlotte, “Truly?”
“You may.” Princess Charlotte nodded slightly.
I smiled faintly. It turned out just as how I wished for it. Though I was inexperienced in ikebana, my proficiency in destruction was one of my best assets.
“Please, everyone, give me a moment!” I ran into the garden without the scissors in pursuit of my desired material.
This plant… too little!
This… still too small!
That… damn small!
Finally, I managed to locate the thing I needed and uprooted it with great cheer.
By the time I returned to the pavilion, everyone’s faces had turned pale except for Princess Charlotte’s.
“Wait a second!” LeToux inquired right before I was about to put the ‘tree’ into the vase, “What is it that you plan on doing, Governor Cohen?”
“To do ikebana!” I balanced the ‘tree’ from my left shoulder to my right, “I’ve already been given Her Grace’s permission!”
“Is that even a flower? Is it?” He hinted at the giant thing laying against my back, “It’s clearly a tree!”
“Her Grace has said that we may choose anything we want from the garden!” I refuted loudly, “Moreover, it’s indeed a flower. It just resembles a tree, that’s all! It’s not my fault nor the flower’s for its tree-like appearance!”
“Fine! Even if it’s a flower!” Prince LeToux let go of the question and said, “If you continue, both the flower arrangement and vase will be destroyed!”
“No way…” I laughed, “Just let me try! How could you say that it’d break before I even put it in!”
“The price for causing damage to the vase is far too much for you to compensate!”
“How so? I’ll be sure to be careful!” I said, “I’ll consider it to be an accident if it breaks!”
I had made up my mind to destroy the flower arrangement, as well as the vase! If not, Fischer would not be able to escape from the trap laid out for him.
“Governor Cohen.” While the two parties were still arguing, Princess Charlotte said, “Silence, Prince LeToux.”
“What Governor Cohen is holding is indeed a flower. As for the vase, it is not a surprise to anyone if it is damaged, for it is used to do ikebana.” Princess Charlotte’s comment made everyone surprised, “However, Governor Cohen, why not we allow Prince Fischer to finish his share of the flower arrangement before you carry out the purpose of your plan which has the clearest of intentions on destroying it completely?”
Since the Princess had said it so clearly herself, there was no point for me to continue messing around.
I glanced at Fischer and told him with a look in my eyes that said, “Bro, there’s nothing I can do for you, now!”