Like irony, the multicoloured roses amassed the attention of the banquet.
Rakan beheld at it in a daze. Affected by the excessively sleepy music, he had picked up someone’s coronet unaware and a clump of hair had come along with it.
Oh dear, Rakan thought, leaving it on the next table.
When he did so, the official next to him hastily put it on.
Rakan wasn’t sure, but he somehow had a feeling that he was being stared at. For now, he took off his monocle, wiped the surface with a cloth and wore it on a different eye this time.
The roses were placed in the middle of the banquet.
The look of it, like it was showing off, was as if it was showing the detestable personality of the arranger.
He remembered that he once had a banquet.
A wavering shawl of thin silk. The flowing reverberation of strings.
Being treated to a full course, enveloped by the smell of alcohol.
Meaningless things from long ago are truly unmemorable.
He remembered being there, but the emotions from that time were completely out of reach.
The banquet was over by the time he came around. The two consorts clad in black and blue outfits were each being bestowed roses that signified their colours from the emperor.
He wasn’t sure, but from all the voices around him, they were beauties.
Things like the facial beauty didn’t matter to him at all.
At any rate, it was boring.
Did she not come?
He didn’t know for what reason he provoked her.
Since there’s no helping it, let’s go poke fun at a different person. Let’s go look for revenge.
He looked around. There were still a lot of people left.
He was bad with crowds.
He could only see most people as go stones.
He could distinguish between genders, but he saw men as black stones and women as white stones. Moreover, he could only see them as indistinguishable generic faces.
Even people from the military he was acquainted with could only change to shogi pieces at most.
Most of them ordinary soldiers were pawns, and as they rise in rank they become spear or knight.
The job of a tactician was simple; it was better to deploy them in correspondence to their piece. Most battles are won with the right person in the right place.
It wasn’t difficult, but Rakan’s job will be over if he did only just that. Even if he assigned it incompetently, his surroundings will arbitrarily end his job for him.
There you go, Rakan thought.
Although everyone admired the man that had a celestial maiden’s smile, he himself didn’t understand.
The gold general that was followed by the promoted silver – he would have no problem if he looked for just that.
He was used to looking for people like that.
Nevertheless, his eyes hurt more than usual today.
The red caught his eyes. Everyone had rouge on their fingers.
Was the thing called manicure the current trend of the palace ladies?
The nails that he recalled in his memories wasn’t such a gaudy red.
It was a lightly dyed red.
It was the red of rose balsam.
When the nostalgic name of the courtesan suddenly came to mind, a short palace lady was projected before his eyes.
Small and thin, but determined, a maiden that was like wood-sorrel.
Hollow eyes faced this way.
When he became aware of his own staring, she turned to her back as if to say come along.
On the opposite side of the peony garden, a shogi board was laid out in a small gazebo. There was a paulownia box on top of the board. Inside was a withered rose that was laid down like a corpse.
“Will you be my opponent?” Picking up the shogi pieces, the girl asked in monotone.
The gold general and the promoted silver was standing close by.
He shouldn’t have any reason to decline.
If it is his cute daughter’s request.
Rakan displayed a wide grin.
Just what did she want to do?
Jinshi was here, ignoring Maomao’s words to go back if he could. Maomao seemed deeply reluctant but relented on the terms of him saying absolutely nothing at all.
Having invited the tactician, Maomao lined up the shogi pieces.
Her face was completely blank of emotions – her normal unsociability still had the touch of humanity. Sometimes she looked like she was scratching the back of her hand, but would she even be bitten by a bug?
“First move, second move, which one is it going to be?” It is clear that he was utterly delighted from the thin eyes inside Rakan’s monocle. Because he was that tenacious, wasn’t that a given?
“Before that, shall we decide the rules and price of the bet?” Maomao proposed.
“That will save me some time,” Rakan said.
Jinshi peered at the board from behind Maomao.
Rakan faced him an ominous smile, but there was no way she would lose. He returned him a graceful smile.
A best-of-five match with no irregularities. In other words, you win when you win three games.
Jinshi couldn’t understand. The tactician never lost in shogi. For starters, the game chosen was a mistake.
What was Maomao thinking?
Gaoshun seemed to share the same sentiments; the furrows on his brows were even deeper.
“I wonder what pieces you need. Rook or bishop?” Rakan said.
“I don’t need anything.”Maomao didn’t accept the long-awaited proposal either. You should’ve just accepted it meekly, Jinshi thought.
“Well then, if I win, you’ll be my child,” Rakan said.
Jinshi was going to voice his objection to that proposal but he was stopped by Gaoshun from the back. He had promised to say nothing at all.
“Since I’m in the middle of employment, it’ll be after the end of the term of service,” Maomao answered.
“Employment?” The fox-like eyes stared this way.
Jinshi, smiling, had to keep his cheeks from stiffening.
“Are you really employed?” Rakan said to make sure.
“Yes. It was recorded in the document that way,” Maomao affirmed.
It was like that. It was written like so in the document that Maomao saw.
But it happened that the one who signed it was the madam who substituted for the guardian. She had snatched away the brush from the man that was like Maomao’s father.
“That’s fine then. Leaving that aside, what about you?” Looking doubtful, Rakan said.
“I don’t need anything. However, is it alright if I change two things after the rules?” she said.
“I don’t have a problem with that.”
“In that case.” Maomao took out the wine bottle she got Gaoshun to prepare beforehand.
She poured equally into five cups. It seemed to be strong distilled liquor from the scent.
Next, she unwrapped the medicine she took out from her bosom and added in the powder with a rustle. She added what seemed to be different powders into three cups. Maomao swirled the cups, mixing that, and quickly shifted the five cups around. It is no longer clear which one is which.
“Every time you lose a game, you drink what the opponent chooses. It doesn’t matter whether you sip it or however you wish,” she said.
He had an extremely unpleasant premonition. Why was that?
Jinshi went around the sides from behind Maomao
It seems like her expressionless face was slightly flushed. Her cheeks were eased like she was having fun.
You can take for granted what it means when she makes that face.
What in the world were the powders you added just then? He wanted to ask but he couldn’t.
He was irritated at himself for that.
“What were the powders you added just then?” Rakan asked for Jinshi.
“It’s medicine. On its own.”
If all three are put together, it becomes a deadly poison.
The odd girl simply said it with a smile.
“If you forfeit the game for any reason whatsoever, you lose. These two rules, please, ” Maomao said that as she swirled the cups with medicine in it.
The pinky on her left hand that was painted red was crooked.
Rakan eyed at that finger.
Jinshi could only think of heartless things.
Though it wasn’t a problem if you don’t drink three cups, it still wasn’t something you would simply want to put in your mouth.
Was it to shake up the opponent?
Certainly, a normal opponent would be shaken from that.
But the opponent was the tactician who was called a weirdo. He didn’t think that that guy’s mind would be thrown into disarray from a mere shaking up.
As expected, Maomao lost two times in a row.
Contrary to expectations, she had some knowledge, but it seems like as far as knowing the rules, she had lacked actual experience.
She had already finished off two cups of alcohol. And yet, she drunk it as if it was delicious.
Just what in the world was she thinking, he thought.
The third match had only just begun, and yet the end could be seen.
He thought of the possibility of getting poisoned by drinking the third cup.
The likelihood of choosing a poisoned cup at the start was five to three, the next would be four to two, and the last would be three to one.
In short, with the possibility of ten to one, Maomao would ingest deadly poison.
Honestly speaking, thinking that if it’s Maomao, she would have no problems even getting poisoned, was scary.
He didn’t know if Rakan knew that much though.
Well, while thinking about what happens after losing to the bet, when he exchanged glances with Gaoshun,
He heard a voice.
It wasn’t Rakan’s, it was Maomao’s.
He exchanged glances with Gaoshun, looked at the board, and the gold general was hunted by a promoted pawn.
It was by such a terribly shoddy piece, but the gold general was certainly blocked off.
“I’m beat.” Raising both hands, Rakan was brought to his knees.
“Even if it’s mercy, a victory is a victory.” Maomao said to make sure.
“Yeah, there’s no way my daughter will ever offer me poison.”
Maomao, who had drunk two cups just then, did not change her expression. There was no knowing of whether there was poison or not in what she had drunk.
Rakan gave a joking smile and regarded his expressionless daughter. “Do the medicines have a taste to it?”
“You’ll know with a sip. They are all bitter.”
“I get it now. Pick one for me?”
“Help yourself to whichever.”
So that’s how it is, Rakan was planning to lose after two rounds. And he would know that Maomao wouldn’t be harmed if even one was bitter. The likelihood won’t change, but this was certain.
He really has a cunning man.
Rakan picked up the cup in the middle and drank it. “It’s bitter.”
Jinshi hung his head.
With this, Maomao wouldn’t win the next match.
When Jinshi was thinking about what to do with the next match—.
“Also, it’s hot.”
He raised his head from Rakan’s words. The man’s face was completely red. His head was bobbing from side to side.
And then, his complexion went down gradually, collapsing limply the moment he turned pale.
Gaoshun ran up to Rakan to wake him up.
“What the hell was that? Didn’t you say that those were medicines that would be fine on its own?”
To really serve up poison no matter hateful he was? Jinshi asked as though he was interrogating her.
“No, it’s a medicine,” Maomao said like she was utterly annoyed. She picked up a nearby pitcher and approached Gaoshun and Rakan.
After confirming that Rakan wasn’t in a dead sleep after forcing his eyes open, she shoved the pitcher into his mouth and poured in the water. Quite a violent way of doing things.
“Jinshi-sama.” Gaoshun looked on with a bewildered face. “He seems to be drunk.”
“It’s the chief of all medicines(Alcohol lol) after all.” Maomao’s nursing was so unbothered she only checked to see if he finally come to. It seems she ended up doing it solely because it was her job as a doctor. “Can’t hold his liquor, this man.”
He finally understood Maomao’s intent with that one statement.