Volume 2, Chapter 5: Disguise

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“You know a lot about make up?” Jinshi asked.

(Just what is this about? )

Maomao tilted her head.
Jinshi had said that. He was back in his private room, his official duties over. Suiren was helping him into his change of clothes.
Certainly, she learnt how to use make-up, reluctant or not, having been brought up in the pleasure district. Besides drugs, she also made cosmetics before. It can be said she knew much about it.

“Is it a gift for someone?” she asked.

“Not quite. It’s for me.”

“….” Maomao looked at him like she was peering into the bottomless abyss. It certainly was hollow.
Seeing that expression,

“What are you imagining?” Jinshi said. Even though he said it, she could only imagine it as he said it.

(He doesn’t need it.)

Maomao imagined Jinshi with make-up. His current appearance was already beautiful like a heavenly person. He only had to draw a scarlet line on the corner of his eyes, put on rouge and paste a huadian(花鈿, A coloured mark, usually red, that is pasted on the middle on the forehead. Common designs are flowers. Popular during the Tang Dynasty.) on his forehead; just that much would be enough to topple the country. There were a lot of absurd wars in history; several of them were instigated by country toppling beauties.

“…you want to go as far as to ruin the country?”

“How did it come to that!” Jinshi, after putting his arms through his outer garment, sat down on his chair. Maomao poured some porridge from the pot. An abalone porridge seasoned with a savoury flavour, it was overwhelmingly delicious though she only helped herself to one bite for food tasting. Since Suiren will split the rest with Maomao after Jinshi was done with eating, she wanted him to pick up the pace and finish eating before the pot got cold.

“The thing you have. How did you make that face powder?” Jinshi said, gesturing at the area around her nose.

(Is it about that huh.)

Maomao got the picture. His beauty was superfluous even at the best of times; he probably had no need to get anymore sparkly than this. “This is dried clay powder that is mixed in oil. I blend in charcoal and rouge when I want to make the colour extremely dark.”

“Hoh. Can you make some immediately?”

For the time being, Maomao took out a clam-shaped container from her bosom. It contained thoroughly kneaded clay. “I only have this much on me right now, but if you allow me one evening I can quickly make some more.”

Jinshi picked up the clam. He scooped out the contents with a finger and smeared it on the back of his hand. Maomao felt that the colour she compounded for herself was slightly too dark on the white porcelain skin that was unthinkable for a man.

“Will it be Jinshi-sama who is using it?” she asked.

Jinshi smiled tenderly at her words. Though he neither denied nor affirmed it, but it wouldn’t be wrong for her to take it as an affirmative.

“It would be convenient if there is medicine that can change one’s face though,” Jinshi said jokingly.

“It’s not that it doesn’t exist, but you’ll be left with that face for the rest of your life,” Maomao replied.

Even just applying lacquer on your face will be sufficient, she said.

“True that,” Jinshi said with a bitter smile.  As one would expect, this was troubling, and if Maomao did such things, she would be surely be torn apart by everyone around her and turned into animal feed.

“It’s not that there isn’t such a technique though.”

“In that case, I’ll leave it to you.” Jinshi smiled as if he was anticipating it. and ate his porridge. The chicken that was grilled to perfection looked delicious, but there surely wouldn’t be any leftovers for her. He passed the plate to Suiren with the last bite left on it. “Turn me into a completely different person.”

(I wonder what he is planning.)

Maomao wasn’t reckless to ask that much. Even if she knew, it wasn’t something that would be beneficial to her.  She only have to prepare it obediently as she was told.
Maomao told him, “I understand.” She looked at Jinshi who continued his dinner, wanting him to quickly finish eating. The abalone porridge looked truly delicious.

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The next day, Maomao prepared a face powder that darker than what she usually made, and stuffed several other things she might need into the cloth bag.
She had turned up earlier than usual, but the lights in Jinshi’s private room were already lit. The owner of the room was sitting on the couch in his room, having done with his bath, and Suiren was drying his hair.  A luxury only a nobleman can have. Although the clothes he wore were simpler and more modest than usual, that conduct was a nobleman’s.

“…Good morning,” Maomao said to Jinshi with narrowed eyes.

“Ah. What’s wrong? You got up on the wrong side of the bed huh,” Jinshi said.

“No, I thought that Jinshi-sama is as beautiful as ever.”

“Newcomer sarcasm?”

It was just truth that sounded like sarcasm to an extent.  She thought that his unravelled hair was glossy, and if she spun his hair right now into fabric, it would surely be first-class silk.

“Did you not want to do this from the start?” he asked.

“It’s nothing like that. Does Jinshi-sama really want to turn into a different person?”

“I already told you last night.”

“In that case, excuse me.” Maomao briskly approached Jinshi. She gripped his sleeves, pressed onto his face. Suiren, who was combing his hair, said “Oh my,” and left the room in haste. Gaoshun, who had come in sometime without her noticing, also withdrew from the room, his back pushed by Suiren.

“Wh-what are you suddenly doing?” Jinshi said, voice slightly hitched.

(He doesn’t understand anything at all.)

It was Maomao’s character to go beyond what is asked of her. She couldn’t settle down unless she worked above and beyond. For that reason, she prepared various things today to turn Jinshi into a different person.

“Commoners do not burn such high-class incense,” she said.

Jinshi’s clothes were the ordinary wear of townspeople and, at best, junior government officials.  It shouldn’t smell like the highest grade aromatic wood that was shipped from across the seas. Maomao’s nose, which was used to tell apart medicinal herbs and poisonous plants, was more sensitive than other people. The reason she was in a bad mood when she entered the room was because of this incense. It was probably Suiren’s touch, but honestly, it was an annoyance.

“Do you know how you can tell apart the honoured guests of the brothel?” she asked.

“…I don’t. Something like their figure or the clothes they are wearing?” he replied.

“There are those, but there is one more thing. Their smell.”

The sweet-smelling fat guests were sick but had money. The ones that were covered with many kinds of terrible perfume generally wander between streetwalkers so there were high chances of them having venereal diseases. The ones who smelt like livestock despite being young were dirty from not bathing, and so on. Most first time guests who come to the Rokushoukan are chased out, but occasionally some would satisfy the madam’s eyes and are let in. Roughly, those who would unmistakably become honoured guests are those who satisfy the madam’s requirements.

“For the time being, you should change into different clothes, and one more thing.” Maomao went to the bathroom and filled a bucket with the still warm water. She brought it to the room Jinshi was in. On the way, Suiren and Gaoshun were looking at Maomao uneasily.  Maomao took the opportunity and asked Gaoshun for a favour. To arrange for something else to the prepared clothes.
Maomao took out a small leather pouch from the cloth bag she brought in. She stuck her finger in it, and came away with thick oil. She dissolved that in the bucket. “We must first turn that silk into linen.”

After passing her hands through the water in the bucket, she ran her fingers through Jinshi’s hair.  The lustre of his glossy flowing hair was lost every time her fingers passed through it. She planned to comb it carefully, but maybe it was the difference in her experience in hand combing, Jinshi looked more unsettled that it was when Suiren was combing for him.

(I mustn’t snag his hair.)

Maomao naturally ended up getting nervous as well. It escaped her mind at times, but if Maomao were to hurt this person’s mood, her head could be estranged from her body.

She bundled up the hair that had certainly transformed from glossy silk to rough linen. She used cloth scraps instead of cord for his hair tie. Anything would do as it was just used to tie up hair.
When she returned from putting away the bucket and washing her hands, Gaoshun had prepared what she asked of him. As expected of the capable attendant.

“Are you really fine with this?” Gaoshun looked at her with a really uneasy expression.

Suiren who was standing next to him, made a blatant look of disgust when she saw what he prepared. Well, it would be something hard to believe for a palace lady like her. What Gaoshun brought was worn out commoner clothes that were slightly large. It had been washed once, but some parts of the cloth were thinned and there were still traces of the owner’s body odour on it.

“It would be better if it stunk more,” Maomao said when she took a whiff of the garment, and Suiren covered her cheeks with both hands in disbelief. Gaoshun, looked like he wanted to say something, but since he was holding back with his hands, it looked like he won’t say anything. Like that, Gaoshun’s brows were distinctly deepened with wrinkles.
She was sorry for Suiren, but Maomao had much more planned to twist the woman’s mind.

“Jinshi-sama, take off your clothes please.”

“…Ah, aaah,” Jinshi replied, slightly hesitant.

Maomao, paying no mind, looked around the room for something she could use. She prepared several towels, and this time took out a bleached cotton cloth from the cloth bag.

“Excuse me, can you two assist me too?” She dragged in the two people who were caught in suspense watching, and got Gaoshun to hold onto the towel and wrap Jinshi’s naked body with it. Though the person who was like a celestial maiden had already lost his most important thing, his upper body was made of muscles that have attained symmetry. She would expect that it might be cold to just be wearing underwear, he was just wearing hakama(trousers). As she thought the room was warm, she added charcoal to the brazier as an apology.

Gaoshun rolled the towel around him, Suiren held onto it, and Maomao wreathed the bleached cotton cloth and fixed it. After she wreathed the bleached cotton cloth, there was the silhouette of a misshaped protruding stomach.
Wearing the largish clothes on top of that was perfect. The slightly off-balance body figure was completed. The fragrance that was left on his body should be erased when he wore the clothes. Only Jinshi’s face was the usual; it was a very strange sight.

“Well then, shall we get on to next thing?” Maomao took out the face powder she freshly kneaded yesterday. She carefully smeared the stuff that was slightly darker than Jinshi’s skin with her finger.

(It’s unnecessarily pretty even when I’m feeling it closely.)

She ended up looking and admiring his poreless skin, let alone any facial hair. As she smeared his face uniformly, she next added a slightly darker colour. She added spots on his face and made bags under his eyes. Taking the opportunity, she tried to add a mole between his eyes. She thickened his willowy brows slightly, drawing them so that the sizes of the left and right were different.
There was a way to deceive the ruggedness of his face, but when she looked closely, it would expose the make-up so she gave it a miss. It would be possible that it would arise suspicion that a woman did a man’s make-up in any case.
Instead, she made him hold cotton in both cheeks, deceiving his features. Gaoshun and Suiren looked at her questioningly, Going that far?, but she wasn’t done with just that. She smeared the left-over face powder on various places on his body, making yellow spots. She filled under his fingernails with face powder, making dirty hands.

(White-bait hands(白魚の手, Pretty hands that are fair-skinned and slender.) really can’t do huh.)

Just like his upper body, Jinshi’s hand were fine male hands. She thought he normally carried writing brushes and chopsticks, but his palm was firm to touch. Though she has never seen it before, she supposed he did sword fighting or staff fighting. It was originally something that wasn’t required of a eunuch. However, Maomao wasn’t so reckless to go as far as to investigating that, so she indifferently applied on the back of his hand with dirty townspeople things.

“Is it done?” Jinshi asked, looking at Maomao who was rubbing her forehead as she put away the makeup tools. There was no beautiful eunuch there, just a commoner man with an unhealthy face. He had neat looks, but he had a distended stomach and yellow spots on his face and hands, an unhealthy lifestyle from the shadows – he was expected to look in that way.

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“…Well, you’re really a young master?” she replied.

“Please stop it with the young master,” he said.

Suiren really couldn’t hide her astonishment even though she should have watched it from the beginning to the end. This way, no one from the royal palace should discover it is Jinshi with just a look. If it is just a look.

Maomao took out the bamboo pipe that was left inside the cloth bag. She pulled off the stopper, poured it in a cup and passed it to Jinshi. Jinshi grimaced when he saw the contents. Probably due to its peculiar sharp smell. It was a blend of several kinds of stimulants – honesty, it wasn’t something that could be said as delicious.

“What is this?” he asked.

“The finishing touch. Please lick it slowly like you are wetting your lips and swallow it. It will make your lips and throat swell and change your voice. It’s better than stuffing your mouth.”

There might be people who would notice if his sweet, honey-like voice wasn’t changed even if his appearance and smell was different. You must be thorough if you have to do it.

“It’s very acrid, but since it’s not poison, be at ease. Also, Jinshi-sama’s posture is good, so please walk hunchbacked with a bowleg,” she added.

“”….”” Leaving the stunned three people behind, Maomao went to start packing up in haste.
She was granted free time today after this and she will be taking a holiday until tomorrow. It’s been a while since she returned to the pleasure district; she was thinking of doing the compounding she liked very much.

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