Monotonous days are boring. Maomao was unable to put up with that, unfortunately.
With that in consideration, Maomao was, in a sense, thankful that half of this room was being used for storage. Fishing around the pile of goods yielded some rather interesting things.
Under the lacquer bowls and plates, there was a paulownia box crammed with books. The box had signs of damage in various places; it looked quite old.
Though the silverfish damaged books were tattered, it could still be read. And above all, the contents made her eyes shine.
The books dealt all the way to flora and fauna that were originally foreign in this country.
The books, which were about one sun(~3cm.) thick, were labelled ‘Insect’, ‘Bird’, ‘Beast’, ‘Fish’, ‘Tree’, and ‘Grass’. They were numbered like there were continuations, but there were only ten volumes here. It seems that there were at least several volumes still missing.
Maomao flipped through the pages of the book that was labelled ‘Grass’. There was one genus per page, included with explanations. The literary style was a little antiquated, so it was hard to read.
(Woodblock printing huh.)
These are quite old, Maomao thought. Paper seems to have become valuable within these couple of decades. Due to that, she had heard from her dad that the woodblock printing technique that prints a large quantity of paper is greatly unusual nowadays.
Novels for amusements aside, honestly, the demand for illustrated books had been restricted, and furthermore, if they were to publish continuations, it must be before the regulation of lumber at least. She wouldn’t think they would get their money’s worth.
(The content is good though.)
Maomao, who can’t get tired of reading it, flipped through the pages, her eyes blazing.
When she did so, she raked in the small text or something that were here and there. The characters were slightly quirky. It seems like they were supplementary to the illustrations.
Maomao’s eyes blazed brighter. She carefully flipped through the book page by page, flying through it. She only looked over the pages that had the supplementary text carefully.
Her whole body got goosebumps. The contents were unexpectantly so exciting she got goosebumps.
Some parts of the description were mixed in with a script that wasn’t this country’s characters. It was the same script as the foreign medical book that was burned in the past so that Maomao couldn’t read it.
But not only that, the handwritten passages of that script were all on the special characteristics of the plant and its use as medicine.
She understood that the person who had owned these books took part in medicine, and additionally, he had studied abroad in a foreign country like her dad.
(To think that were such a person aside from dad.)
She was super excited to meet him.
However, that reminded her of something.
Why were that person’s things in this kind of place? Then she arrived at a certain possibility.
“Don’t leave them around.”
Since when had Suirei stood here? There was a basket containing food in her hands.
“About the time when you started to wriggle your body with a strange smile and your hands on your cheeks.”
Maomao slowly averted her eyes and closed the book with overwhelming sorrow. Thinking that she will continue reading when Suirei wasn’t around, she stroked the book as she returned it to the paulownia box.
“Just saying, these are my grandfather’s things so please don’t lose them.”
Murmuring that, Suirei set up the dishes on the table.
Maomao recalled Suirei’s personal history.
The court physician who was banished from imperial court for laying his hands on a palace lady. And Suirei’s mother would have to be the child who left the inner palace with that court physician.
Supposedly, if there was something different, Suirei’s mother would have been a blue-blooded princess who was raised with the butterflies and flowers(蝶よ、花よ, a child brought up with tender care and affection).
However, the words ‘supposedly’ were actually distant from the empty reality.
In order to hide the emperor’s peculiar inclination, what happened to the court physician who had the crime blamed on him? And then, this Suirei who called that person grandfather would have to be—.
(There’s no point bearing a grudge.)
Was the reason for her being in this fortress now from that?
Maomao didn’t understand the women called Suirei. Similarly, she didn’t understand Rouran either.
Even if she thought hard on this, Maomao wasn’t Suirei nor Rouran. She figured that it was a given that she didn’t understand.
And more than that, there was something she was more interested in.
“Can I meet that person you call grandfather?”
She made a request that didn’t read the atmosphere. Maomao understood, considering her current situation, that even if she said such a thing it was futile.
But she couldn’t not ask.
“…he’s no longer around. He was always confined to this room, and passed away five years ago.”
Maomao dropped her shoulders, crestfallen, at the smooth reply.
In other words, after he died, his room became a storeroom. That’s why her grandfather’s things were left underneath.
Speaking of that, she also understood the reason why there were grids on the window and the toilet connected to the room.
“He was told to make the elixir of life for the mistress here.”
Maomao’s eyes once again shone at those words.
There was no omnipotent medicine; the elixir of life was also the same. Her dad had already told her, but she couldn’t help getting interested when she heard it.
Suirei took out the ‘Insect’ and ‘Fish’ books from the box and read over it adeptly.
“Did he achieve it?”
“He wouldn’t be dead if he achieved it.”
She said the plausible.
Maomao’s personality was also on the cold side, but this woman called Suirei was even more so.
“If he made it, he can make up properly to the mistress here.”
Saying that, she passed the book over to Maomao.
“Also, please don’t make a racket. Your voice went all the way outside just then.”
Maomao covered her mouth with her hands.
Suirei, taking the empty basket, left the room.
For a moment, she heard noisy voices from the other side of the opened door, but was it her imagination?
Maomao decided to work hard on reading for a short while as she stuffed her cheeks with the prepared meal.
When she noticed, it was dark outside. As if Maomao’s presence was a secret, she wasn’t allowed to put lights on as she pleased.
While thinking that she wanted to read for a bit longer, Maomao laid down on the bed.
The former court physician who was said to have researched eternal life, you can see how outstanding of a person he was by looking at the addendum notes.
(He’s no match for dad though.)
Wouldn’t that make him a capable person that is second to him? Maomao thought.
She was aware that she raised a creepy voice whenever she found the names of plants and animals that she didn’t know, and knew the kind of effect which parts had.
(Not good, not good.)
She covered her mouth when she thought that, but this time her limbs wriggled.
It was that interesting.
However, it was good enough as a time waster for Maomao, though she was quite helpless when it came to research. There must be other various tools, but were they taken away?
(I want to see more.)
She closed her eyes as she thought that. She ruminated on what she learnt today. Firsthand, aside from the text written in the book, there were papers slipped between the pages like a bookmark in several places. The papers pressed with various plants were just inserted right into the pages.
Maomao fumbled around and took out the paper in her collar.
It was likely that this was pulled out from what was slipped among these.
Maomao inadvertently got up. She tried to get off the bed to check the contents of the paulownia box, but it was a dark. She couldn’t see.
She missed her footing, and ceremoniously crashed onto the floor.
There were a loud sound and the thing she was leaning against fell. The box full of lacquer bowls fell directly onto Maomao’s belly, and she cried out like a frog getting crushed.
For a short while, though she squirmed around, she held her mouth.
Although she was slightly drawn back by the pain, she put her ear against the door.
(No one noticed right?)
It was when she was going to sigh deeply as she rubbed her belly.
When she thought she heard a click, she fell forward with a thump.
Half of Maomao’s body had fallen into the corridor. She could see silver embroidered shoes before her eyes. The long skirt was made of silk, and when she shifted her gaze upwards, she saw a middle-aged woman.
The woman was wearing garish hair ornaments and clothes. The nails of her ring finger and pinky were around two sun long, and had tortoiseshell nail guards on.
However, a crooked smile emerged on her face. Her face, which must have been beautiful before, produced a different twistedness with the wrinkles from her age.
There were two maids behind the woman, smiles practiced at their master. There was a pale-faced Suirei behind them. It was like she was saying to Maomao, “What was that racket?”
“I knew there was a gutter rat mixed in here.”
As she cackled loudly in delight, she looked up and gazed backwards at Suirei.
That calm, cool and collected Suirei’s complexion worsened.
It was a voice she heard before.
It was the person who stabbed the hairpin into the basket when she entered this fortress, the woman who was the former high ranked consort, who was Shishou’s main wife, who was Rouran’s mother.
Was it time? Or was it a different cause? The one called the peerless beauty was already gone. As she laughed with her face reversed, she approached Suirei as her hair swayed. Maomao was aware that Suirei was trembling from the ghost-like movement.
“You can’t keep dirty creatures, right?”
The woman, when she thought if she was going to raise her right hand as she laughed, struck.
The two nail guards sliced Suirei’s cheek. A red line oozed. And then, without missing a beat, the fan in the woman’s left hand smacked Suirei’s temple.
She purposely changed her direction like there was no wind resistance, and went to hit bone. Suirei covered her face, and repeated, “My sincerest apologies”.
The maids who were smiling at the back, weren’t smiling in their eyes.
“How dreadful. In any case, this must be Rouran’s wilfulness.”
As she said that, she grabbed Suirei’s hair, and tugged her face closer. And then, contrary to what she expected, she licked the flowing blood.
“No matter how you dilute noble blood, it’s the end if you mixed it with filthy blood once.”
The woman wrapped up the paper that had been tucked into her outfit with the spit mixed with blood, and threw it on Suirei’s head.
And when she thought the woman was going to leave in satisfaction—.
“That’s right, that little rat.”
She wasn’t forgotten.
(It’s fine to forget me.)
On the contrary, Maomao was held down from the top by a man who seemed to be a guard, and forced back into the room.
“The children working underground, someone call them up. Even this kind of thing can be comfort. ”
Saying that, the woman left with a cruel smile.
Suirei, with a pale face,
“My sincerest apologies, Shenmei-sama(神美, Shen Mei. Divine Beauty). My sincerest apologies.”
(What an exaggerated name.)
Maomao thought as she watched the mistress leave from the gap of the closed door.