Oof, what a chapter. I definitely need to reread it. Before I read what anyone else put, I’m going to skim through it again and write what I glean from it.
シュナン, son of アルハン (a title, which シュナン will inherit), comes with his father and their retinue to the holy forest where ヨジェ lives. They have to leave their carriages at the edge of the forest because it’s a sacred space. They’re bringing many fancy presents for ヨジェ’s 60th birthday.
They reach the palace, which has lots of buildings connected by walkways, but no ramparts. This is in distinct contrast to the castle in which シュナン lives, which has formidable walls and is always heavily guarded. According to アルハン (and シュナン agrees), this place’s peaceful lack of walls and armies is due to the blood and sacrifice made through the years by アルハン and his people.
Oh man and then the history section. All right, let’s see, so a long long time ago, the ruler of this land was super paranoid and slaughtered his younger brother along with his retainers etc, but one of the younger brother’s offspring survived and started a war of revenge. The sides were pretty evenly matched and people were getting killed left and right. Eventually, both the ruler and the rival were killed in battle, and things got even more chaotic and bloody. That’s when the ancestor of ヨジェ arrived. They (later we find out: she) was accompanied by one of the 王獣 (or maybe it was just flying around above her idk), and the 闘蛇 bowed their heads to make her a bridge to walk on over the river. She was all beautiful and tall and majestic with a feeling of being pure like the gods, and people asked her to stay. She did, and she gathered all the scattered peoples to her like a mother and rebuilt the foundation of the country. For a while there was peace.
Four generations later, a neighboring country attacked. The ruler at the time didn’t want the impurity of bloodshed and didn’t fight back, but one of her retainers stopped her, saying that the people were the ones who would suffer if they lost. They said they would take on the impurity (and be the ones to fight back) and then go live elsewhere (since: impurity). To do this, they asked for the 闘蛇 whistle (or something) that controls the 闘蛇, and using it defeated the invading country. This retainer was シュナン’s ancestor.
The ruler at the time felt bad that the retainer person was tainted by the bloodshed on her behalf and could not now go to (some equivalent of heaven or something), so she gave them the thing (idk what exactly it is, maybe just a decree or something?) that meant that as long as the bloodshed was for the sake of the country, it would be washed away after dying and the person could go to (the heaven place). She gave the retainer the title of アルハン and allowed them to govern the land across the mountains. For a while there was peace again.
The grandchild of the first アルハン raised a whole bunch of 闘蛇 and started attacking neighboring countries, reaping all kinds of riches and land from it. Whenever they conquered another country they’d send the ruler an offering out of the riches, but the ruler didn’t want their bloodstained gifts, and she told them to quit with the pillaging and conquering. アルハン said it was all to the country’s benefit and thought that the ruler would come around. Some people from the ruler’s side of the mountains defected to アルハン’s side. アルハン’s people, who already lived in a fertile land where crops were easy to grow, got wealthy and started building cities, while some of the ruler’s people, who lived in mountainous land that wasn’t reliable for crops in the first place, went hungry. This finally convinced the ruler of what アルハン had said, and she accepted the gifts and used them to help her people. At some point, the ruler became known as ヨジェ.
ヨジェ still did the administrative ruling of the country, revered almost as a divinity. アルハン had control of the armies and the wealth. アルハン’s people were restless because they thought they were the ones really holding up the country with their sacrifices etc, but ヨジェ’s people looked down on them as being impure. This gave rise to a group, サイ・ガムル, that wanted to make アルハン the king of the country (which I forgot to put earlier is called リョザ神王国). They blamed ヨジェ for splitting their country up and holding it back and thought having アルハン as king would fix it.
ヨジェ and her heir started having personal guards (like what’s his face! [looks it up] イアル) when the current ヨジェ’s grandmother almost got murdered by a サイ・ガムル assassin. The palace also burned down and one of the family died in the fire, though ヨジェ and her heir were saved. This incident exposed the unrest in the divided country and shook everybody up. Even most of アルハン’s people, dissatisfied as they were, revered ヨジェ as a descendant of the gods. ヨジェ said she would rescind the thing that meant that even with bloodshed アルハン and his people could go to the heaven place, but アルハン disavowed all part of the assassination plot and said he wasn’t looking to become king. The サイ・ガムル went underground and continue aiming for the assassination of ヨジェ. Their members are infiltrated into all ranks and locations etc. History lesson complete.
Then there’s this part with シュナン thinking about himself and his dad and his younger brother and their place in the world. This part is probably what I understood the least, but it seems like there are some shady aspirations in here, and シュナン definitely has designs on セイミヤ王女. (Maybe because he likes her, but more likely he just wants to marry her for power etc, no?)
omg this will never end okay so they’re shown into the dining hall and congratulate ヨジェ on her birthday. She’s all majestic, with a royal/divine presence that she doesn’t have to embellish with pretense. シュナン makes eyes at セイミヤ, and her uncle ダミヤ makes an off-color joke about it. セイミヤ, clearly quite fond of ダミヤ, tells シュナン not to mind his meaningless silly jokes. Then there is this interlude about ヨジェ passing from mother to daughter, which means ダミヤ has no place in succession, and he lives freely and womanizes, but also travels all over the country and brings back information for ヨジェ and seems to be a trusted adviser. Also, セイミヤ’s parents passed away in an accident (OR WAS IT AN ACCIDENT okay I don’t know maybe it was). セイミヤ also relies a lot on ダミヤ but can’t enter into his relaxed ideas about life because she’s the future ヨジェ, and her future husband will be ヨジェ’s husband (and thus very powerful etc). This makes ダミヤ’s joke not super funny to アルハン and シュナン, but ヨジェ is all, enough of this, it’s my birthday! Her chamberlains, which is definitely a word I didn’t know (侍従), open up the windows. The light and wind and scent and flower petals of spring came drifting in, and it was like the entire royal garden itself was celebrating ヨジェ’s birthday.
Well, that took forever but really helped my understanding improve from my first pass through (though I still might need one more). I’m quite sure I’ve messed up some things (I anticipate reading your guys’ summaries and having realizations) so please point those out or offer alternate interpretations!