“…Hey, you guys. Why is every one of you telling me the same nonsense?”
“What would be this nonsense, your Majesty! We are just rejoicing at the reunion of a new family member!”
We were now in the audience room. With all four siblings and Gattenwo in tow, we appealed to the Emperor.
“Yeah, just admit to it as a man, Dad! Just go ahead and accept her!” Iifu spoke out.
“Yes, my fortune telling is telling me that this girl is unmistakably my sister.”
“I too advise to immediately admit her…there is no room for excuses, father.”
“Everyone. Stop showing me such dirty-looking expressions. It’s uncomfortable.”
Certainly, my siblings’ facial expressions were not at the level of being called “dirty-looking.” It was just that their face was an exact reflection of their hearts.
Kids, don’t become them when you grow up.
“Say if I reluctantly accepted your request to accept her. Why would an ‘important sister’ be gagged and carried on the shoulder like luggage?”
“If we don’t do this, she’ll lie that we’re kidnappers and struggle.”
“She won’t lie. You are truly kidnappers in all senses of the word. Put her down.”
I could not defy the Emperor’s order. I put down Gattenwo from my shoulder and ungagged her.
However, once she was finally released, she didn’t say anything.”
“What happened? Even though you were so noisy when we were bringing you here.”
“Y-You all…leaving out how much you mess around, are you real princes? Also, is the person over there the real Emperor…?”
“I cannot just accept any fake that comes along. Your recognition as a princess is a serious matter.”
“Are you people all stupid! Let’s say that I really am the Emperor’s child, but would you really accept a self-proclaimed noble thief like me―Gah!”
I blocked Gattenwo from saying anything more with my palm. With her being a self-proclaimed person getting found out, I had to start a new plan.
“In any case, your Majesty. As you can see, this person would make an appropriate Emperor.”
“Sugen. Go learn how to use the phrase, “as you can see” one more time.”
The Emperor reclined back and looked away from me. His sharp gaze rested on Gattenwo.
“Setting aside the idiotic plot to make you a little sister, Noble Thief Gattenwo. I’ve wanted to meet you.”
Gattenwo put herself on guard.
“Do you want to punish me? Good. I’m just a simple thief. I’m ready.”
“No. It makes no sense for me to dispose of you before you punish all of the wrongdoers you’ve been fighting every day.”
In response to this, Gattenwo made a face that looked as if she was pricked in a hole.
“Wait. Are you pretending to be a good person? Are you not the one who lets the common people fall prey to them and do absolutely nothing but stay silent? Is it not the job of a monarch to correct the problem of corruption being so rampant?”
“I cannot do anything. For example, that big-time merchant that you stole from. You single handedly let his business rivals push him out of Ando. I understand that he is not a good person, but in times of war, he is an essential supplier for us. As for the loan sharks, they pay some of the most taxes in wartime.”
Gattenwo, filled with anger, hit a pillar with her palm. If we had not taken away her dagger, she would likely have attacked the Emperor right her.
“That’s why you overlook them!”
“Indeed. However, you are just the same, Gattenwo. You are a thief in the eyes of the law. Just as I look away from their misdeeds, I look away from yours.”
Being compared to the same evildoers drowned in sin that she stole from humiliated Gattenwo. Even from over here, I could hear her teeth grinding against each other.
“Incidentally, about that medicine merchant you stole from yesterday night. Do you know if he really sells opium?”
“…It’s highly likely. I shut down many opium merchants and ascertained the location. Also he must be guilty seeing how many guards were set up.”
“What about evidence?”
“…Got none! I wanted to steal the money along with the opium yesterday, but I failed. Are you also going to overlook this?”
Gattenwo provoked the Emperor, but he uncaringly swiped his palm out into the air.
“That’s enough. Kindly escort her out the palace.”
“But your Majesty! Please look at these brave eyes that resemble yours―”
“Even with how the conversation went, have you still not thrown out the possibility of me accepting her…?”
Of course. I am also a warrior to the end. I am not a warrior who will break an oath once taken.
My siblings were the same. Iifu took out a sake bottle that he snuck in and poured it for all five of us.
“Your recognition doesn’t matter! Gattenwo is our sister! Isn’t that right, you all!?” Iifu was the first to speak.
Next was Ryausha, “Oh, father, you are so obstinate. We have no choice but to accept her first.”
Last was Sauran, “It is just a matter of waiting for father to see the light…Hehe…”
However, with Gattenwo herself having no interest, she quietly left. I hurried to block her in the corridor.
“Hey wait, the conversation isn’t over yet.”
“No matter how you think about it, it’s over. I’m going home. You don’t need to send me out. I’m fine by myself.”
My siblings came in a bit later.
“Heyyyy! Wait a bit, we still haven’t exchanged a drink!”
“I don’t want it! I don’t want anything to do with this self-important imperial court!”
Despite being yelled so threateningly by Gattenwo, Iifu was unfazed. Ryausha came in and pushed a sake cup onto Gattenwo.
“Well, you certainly are too young to drink. However, will you allow us to prepare a new set of clothes as an apology? Wearing those tattered black clothes and straw sandals will make you seem pretty suspicious to the guards, don’t you think?”
“My sister only has useless, glamorous clothing, so I shall prepare them. I still have some clothing that was prepared for a lady-in-waiting…”
Sauran spoke with a slightly sad tone of voice.
Its past was something like this: Sauran wanted to invite a lady-in-waiting over for the night and prepared new linen clothing for her, but she never came.
“That will not do, Sauran. Those clothes are dyed in indecency. Even I have normal clothing; I’ll just use those.”
“Are my tears indecent…hehe.”
I hate to say it, but his mind is probably nothing but indecent thoughts. Even if it temporarily isn’t indecent, it will probably be disgusting.
Ryausha was pushing Gattenwo’s back, taking her to her room. Gattenwo was making a bitter expression.
The ladies setup was profusely long. We were standing in the corridor waiting, but eventually the wait became unbearable, and we started sparring in silence.
“Heyy! Look here, idiots!”
Just when we were about to forget about waiting for Gattenwo from how intense our sparring was, Ryausha finally came back.
Was the person she brought―Gattenwo?
“Hey! Give me that wet cloth! I don’t want all these decorations!”
“Stop, stop, shut up. Okay? Doesn’t she have too little sex appeal compared to me? That’s why I put some makeup on her. Doesn’t she look a bit more grown-up?”
To be honest, I was surprised.
I thought she looked childish for her age, but with a bit of touch-up, she grew up. Her charm was certainly different from Ryausha’s, but she was a beauty by all rights.
Though the person herself didn’t really like it, and was jumping for the wet towel to wash off the makeup.
Ryausha threw the towel over to me.
“Anyhow, Sugen, take her out the castle.”
“Give me that towel now!”
Without much hesitation, I gave her the towel. She sunk her face into it and wiped off the makeup.
“Ah. Wiping all that stuff away is a waste.”
“With all that makeup on, people will think that I’m a rich man’s daughter even in simple clothes. It’s better to avoid trouble.”
“You can still just run away even without all that trouble taken.”
Well, that was a sound argument. She was someone who could take down more than ten guards by herself, though she was somewhat lacking compared to us siblings.
It was just that avoiding trouble was best. I know the feeling of beating up street thugs every day.
Standing out amongst the poor would just create unneeded troubles.
“Gattenwo, where do you live so I can send you there?”
“Nowhere. I sleep in a cellar in some empty house.”
“I’ll get an acquaintance to rent a house to you, so go ahead and live there. I’ll go and meet you again when I persuade the Emperor.”
“You haven’t given up yet?”
“Of course. We siblings don’t give up to anybody.”
Looking at us burning with conviction, Gattenwo let out a long sigh.
“I don’t want it. I won’t have anything to do with you. No need for farewells.”
“I won’t take anything else. Thanks for helping me out last night. But I’m just a thief. A person that has nothing to do with you princes.”
Gattenwo threw away the towel and started walking back, alone. By following the path that I used to come in, she could get out without being seen.
Her small back became smaller and soon vanished from the imperial court.
I asked, “So, sister. Found her yet?”
“Naturally. The dogs can learn her smell from her clothes and sandals she left behind. They can find her anywhere within the city.”
“When they’re done remembering the scent, lend me one. I’ll find her place and make sure nothing bad happens like last night.”
Sauran put in, “We will persuade father during that time.”
“Yeah. Dad’s stubborn but listens to reason. We’ll make him know that we’re going to be trash emperors.”
We linked arms in a ring. Normally, we fought each other, but when united, our bond was unbreakable. That was the kind of siblings we were.
That unity’s origin came from the wish for Gattenwo to take the throne.
Just when I thought that, the incident happened.
―Gattenwo was kidnapped.