A Perfect Sunset

- A Serialized Novel -

A reluctant queen becomes involved in intrigue in a kingdom ruled by a tyrant and on the verge of revolution.

Author’s Note: So when I wrote this scene, I immediately wanted to share it. I thought the background behind the queen’s name was something important. Or maybe it was just the way that Agache reacted after she told him that I liked.

Behind the Name


“What is it?” She did not look behind her, not wanting to speak to Agache right now. She didn’t want to see anyone. She didn’t know that she could cope with a visitor or whatever demand was about to be made of her. She did not want to see the king or Malzhi or try for any sort of intrigue, not now. She had wanted to know what their plan was, how they were going to stop the king and Malzhi, but she did not have the stamina to hear it at present. She could not believe how much she had told Anokii, and in revealing herself, she had made another mistake. She should not have betrayed her thoughts, should not have voiced those doubts, nor could she allow herself to be so vulnerable again.

“Something is wrong.”

She almost laughed. Sometimes Agache was a fool. Didn’t he realize what he was asking? “You are in my room again. Of course something is wrong.”

He shook his head. “It is something else. You do not react to your name that way without a reason. You did not—is it the king? Malzhi? Memories?”

She could say it was any of those things or none of them. All of them, perhaps. She was homesick in many ways, despite thinking that she no longer had a place there, and yet she was unwilling to leave. She was close to overwhelmed by everything she feared. “Memories, I suppose.”

“Of what?”

She would not discuss that. He would not distract her this time. If he had come to her room, he should have a reason for it—a good one—and he would tell her what it was. Now. Otherwise, he could go. She was not going to let him annoy her tonight. “Why are you here?”

“Because I am a fool.”

She frowned. She did not like that answer. She had thought it herself a moment before, but that did not mean that she wanted him to say it. He was not free to visit her without reason, and to call himself a fool suggested at a reason she would not believe. “You… You do have a reason for being in my room at night, don’t you? This is not something to do because you are bored, so you would… You must have a reason. What is it?”

“I am not bored.”

She already knew that, but his words were not the answers she needed. His voice told her enough. He did not realize how much that revealed about him. “You’re hurt, aren’t you?”

He sighed, and she turned back to him, crossing over to his side. He did not protest as she helped him out of his cloak or pushed up his shirt. She winced as she saw his side. “What did you do? No, wait, do not tell me. I know. You were the one who set those two idiots squabbling before the king’s speech, weren’t you?”

“I was.” He lowered his head, ashamed. “I… It was only supposed to be a distraction. They…”

“They weren’t supposed to die.”

He shook his head, miserable. “No, they weren’t. I… I tried to stop it, but I was too late.”

“It could easily have been something else they did, not something that you arranged. It doesn’t take much to anger the king.”

“That is no consolation, and we both know it. I did that, I sent them to their deaths, and it is something I must atone for later,” he said, keeping his head low. He let out a breath, but he did not look up at her. “Distract me again. Please.”

She turned to pick up her water pitcher, knowing that she would have to clean that wound at least. That would not distract him from remembering what had caused it, though. “With what?”

“You never did tell me what Jis meant.”

She sighed, motioning for him to sit on the bed. “I… You would not know that Jis… It comes from a flower.”

“A flower?” He sat down, grimacing as he did. “It must be hideous or have a terrible scent to cause you to react that way.”

“Not quite. The jisensoji flowers are only grown in the king’s gardens. He… He gave one to my mother when she became his mistress. It… That symbolized their agreement.”

Agache frowned. “She… had a choice?”

The queen stilled, the cloth she’d been about to touch to his side dripping onto the floor. “Why would you think she didn’t?”

“She would have been picked because she looked like the queen. She was already the other woman’s esibani, wasn’t she? It was rather… inevitable, that relationship with your father, wasn’t it?”

“I want you to leave.”

He gestured to the floor, and she frowned to see she’d dropped the cloth. “You didn’t do anything—I thought you wanted to treat this. Not that you have to, but you did—”

“I am not Anokii. I am not a healer, and you have…” She could say it when she wasn’t looking at him, and kneeling to pick up the cloth was a good reason not to face him, unlike cowardice. “You have made my parents’ liaison worse than it had ever seemed in the past, and it was difficult enough knowing that I was only ever… I had not deceived myself that they were in love, but to think of myself so… coldly prearranged…”

Agache reached over and placed his hands on her face. “I am sorry. I did not mean to make you feel as though you are somehow less because of your birth. Regardless of how that may have come to be, you have become so much more than what they might have intended. You are the queen. You are my ally. My… wijami. I was injured, and you offered me shelter despite the risk involved in my mere presence in your room. You have so much… value. Do not think you lack worth. Please.”

“I don’t…” She swallowed. She didn’t know how to respond to what he’d said. She settled for something simple, though it did not do justice to what he had done for her. “Thank you.”

“You are quite welcome.”

“Let me rinse this, and then I will take care of that wound for you.”

“That is unnecessary.”

Of course he’d argue with her about it the moment she started to clean him up. He was such a child sometimes. Still, if he was trying to excuse himself because he thought she was still upset, that was different. “I say it is, and I am your queen, remember?”

“Very well, my lady. If you insist.”

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