When she woke up, there was a beautiful noble before her eyes. For some reason, he was leaning over Maomao with his hand on her collar.
Maomao narrowed her eyes back at him and Jinshi spoke frantically exclaimed, waving his hands about. Normally, she would glare at him for a bit longer, but she noticed that Jinshi’s face was bandaged.
“…Jinshi-sama, what happened?”
Maomao said as she fixed her collar.
“Nothing big. It’s just a scratch.”
He hid it behind his hand.
“Please show me.”
“There’s nothing to see.”
It was concerning that he was playing it like this. She inched closer to Jinshi. And Jinshi drew back.
She drove him to the wall, and slowly reached her hand out.
There was a cut that ran diagonally along the left cheek of his face, which would be called his greatest asset. The cut went through flesh, not just skin. It had been stitched with thread.
It was treated properly, but it would have to leave a permanent scar.
“Did you go out to the front lines?”
“It’s not like I alone can watch from a safe place.”
“Wouldn’t it have been fine if you just watched? You have that position after all.”
Maomao said slightly exasperatedly.
“Please don’t go right ahead to dangerous places. It will inconvenience everyone if Jinshi-sama gets hurt.”
Jinshi scratched his head, smiling bitterly at Maomao’s words.
“Yeah, I did something inexcusable to Basen. You mightn’t think so, but Gaoshun’s fists are quite effective.”
He said, and he started to clumsily rebandage his face. Maomao snatched the bandage away from him and wrapped it for him.
“I didn’t plan on getting hurt though.”
“Anyone would say the same.”
“It’s because I heard a strange request.”
Jinshi lowered his lashes. Gloominess brimmed in his obsidian eyes.
“…were you, close to Rouran?”
Jinshi suddenly asked Maomao.
“Were you friends?”
“I have no idea.”
She really had no idea.
She thought that they probably had a close relationship. That was what Maomao felt, at least. Though she had no idea about the other person.
“She was a person who was really hard to understand.”
“…for me too.”
Jinshi’s expression became even more aggrieved.
“She was finished while I knew nothing.”
It wasn’t Maomao who didn’t understand the meaning of those words.
“Is that so?”
It was something she understood. That time, when she left the room, Rouran had entrusted Maomao with a certain thing. And then she made her resolution and left.
What she left Maomao to do, the only thing she entrusted her to accomplish was—.
“Jinshi-sama, how about you rest?”
“Yeah, I’m so sleepy.”
Jinshi’s complexion was bad. It was likely his condition was much worse than Maomao who had been held captive. She could see faint bags under his eyes and his lips were dry.
He should have quickly returned to his own horse carriage to sleep, but Jinshi – of all things – laid down on the furs that Maomao had been sleeping on.
Maomao’s face blatantly contorted.
“Jinshi-sama, please don’t sleep here.”
“Why? I’m tired.”
“Even if you ask why.”
Maomao looked around. There were five bundles in the horse carriage. Those were the children of the Shi Clan.
“This is a taboo place.”
“…I know that.”
He grabbed and pulled her wrist before she could finish speaking. His hand was very cold.
They were now facing each other atop the pile of furs.
“Then, why are you here?”
“Even I don’t have the heart to pity children.”
It was a speech she had prepared beforehand.
“I wonder if that’s really true. I find that slightly mysterious.”
Jinshi, who was lying on his side, tilted his head slightly.
“Didn’t you say that doctors can’t touch dead bodies?”
Maomao subconsciously scowled.
“I don’t think that you would stay in this kind of place for a long time.”
His intuition worked in strange places.
Maomao racked her brain, thinking how she could escape the pair of eyes that were watching her intently.
While she stayed frozen like that, Jinshi reached out. He grabbed hold of Maomao’s collar and wrenched it open.
“And what is it that happened to you?”
Jinshi said while knitting his brows.
There was a red knife cut that ran across her bared skin. There were also bite marks on her shoulders and neck, but what would happen if he saw that?
Maomao felt a little shy, but she decided to proceed with it indifferently.
“There were good for nothing guys.”
“…were you assaulted?”
She heard a cold voice.
“It was attempted.”
She made sure to add.
This man intrudes on other people’s chastity in detail.
“I turned the tables on them. I was able to render their function as men unusable for a short while.”
She had stepped and crushed them, but they shouldn’t be ruptured.
Hearing that, Jinshi’s face turned blue.
“No, I know they’re reaping what they sowed, I know but-“
There must be some parts that he understood, being the same gender. Jinshi’s face was bitter. And with that bitter face, he reached out.
He traced a finger down her wound and she involuntarily twitched.
“It won’t leave a scar, right?”
“The cut is only skin deep.”
Feeling uncomfortable from the sensation of his finger, she drew back, but accordingly, Jinshi reached out with his hand. Maomao, unable to bear with that, sat up and fixed her collar.
“Don’t let it leave a scar.”
“Shall I return those words back at you as well?”
Jinshi smiled broadly at Maomao’s words.
“I’m a man. No problem.”
“Jinshi-sama has excelled in that.”
“As if I know about that.”
“Then I don’t know. If you become worthless from a single scar, then we’ll leave it at that.”
“Weren’t you speaking harshly to me just then?”
Jinshi didn’t release Maomao’s wrist as he lay down. His hands, which had been strangely cold until a moment ago, were now a little warmer.
“Am I, a man who becomes worthless from a single scar?”
Jinshi asked, his grip on Maomao’s wrist tightening.
“A doll with only looks?”
At his question, Maomao naturally shook her head.
“Actually, it might be better if you have a bit more scars.”
She unintendedly revealed her true thoughts.
Jinshi is too beautiful. Everyone is thrown into disarray just be seeing him. Everyone looks too much into his appearance. His essence isn’t as majestic as his appearance, it is more honest, Maomao thought.
And the only ones that know that are the very few people around him.
Maomao sighed deeply and broke into a faint smile.
“Haven’t you become manlier than before?”
That moment, she realised that Jinshi had clammed his lips shut. He looked around restlessly, then shook his head, closing and opening his eyes.
“What is wrong?”
Maomao asked. Jinshi scratched the back of his head with his free hand.
“…due to the situation around us, I had thought of enduring it.”
“Enduring it, is it? If you’re sleepy, then please hurry up and…”
She was going to chase him out by telling him to please hurry up and leave here to sleep.
However, as she was wondering if he was enduring his sleepiness, he tugged her wrist once again.
She now sat facing Jinshi. He was holding down her upper arms.
“When I saw your injury just then, I had planned to go with it calmly.”
With an uneasy face, he inched over little by little towards Maomao. His warm breath fell over Maomao’s face.
“It seemed to have gone unexpectantly, or perhaps I should say, better than I thought.”
Jinshi’s face slowly closed in. It was the moment when their noses were about to touch.
There was a clunk.
Jinshi leapt up in surprise.
The sound came from where the children had been laid down.
Maomao pushed Jinshi aside, and went towards the sound.
One by one, she took the wrists of the bundled children.
It was when Maomao touched the third child.
The child’s small mouth moved weakly.
His pulse, though soft, was beating.
‘If these children are insects, they will overcome the winter.’
She recalled Rouran’s words.
The females of the insect that cries with the sound of bells after eating the males also die too. Only the offspring overcome the winter and survive.
Rouran had likened her own clan to insects.
Also, Rouran had provided Maomao one other clue.
Devil’s Trumpet. It is both a poison and a medicine. The thing on the paper that had been shown and given to Maomao.
At times, it is used as a medicine of the secret art in foreign countries.
As a medicine that kills a person once and revives them again.
She recalled the former court physician who had been confined by Shenmei and forced to make the elixir of life. Though it wasn’t immortality, had he researched a medicine that was still somewhat similar? There were sheets of written notes slipped inside the books the former court physician had used. Among those, there had been fish fins. Fugu fins.
It uses poisons that kill people once. However, mixing several of these poisons will offset each other and get neutralised. She was told that once the poisons become neutralised, the person who had died once will be revived.
“Are they alive?”
Jinshi was behind her.
However, Maomao didn’t have the leisure to care about that. She rubbed the children’s’ bodies. It was important for their resuscitation to be successful by any means possible.
It was for this reason that Rouran had brought Maomao here.
Jinshi had no idea what to do with the revived children. But, he didn’t have the leisure to have that excuse.
“Jinshi-sama, hot water, please prepare hot water. And something warm! Clothes, food, anything.”
“…those who have died once, is it?”
“She got me.”
Whatever he was muttering about was nothing of concern to Maomao. She shouted, raising her eyes.
“Yeah, I get it.”
She felt that Jinshi had said it in a somewhat cheerful voice. His expression looked more eased that before, but yet, he looked a little disappointed.
Maomao frantically resuscitated the children, trying to revive them no matter what one after the other. Jinshi brought in blankets and a pail, and when he left, he whispered into her ear.
“Shall we continue this another time?”
“Aah, yeah sure.”
The busy Maomao didn’t think too deeply about it, replying with just that, and then immersed herself into looking after the children.
T/N: One more chapter left to this arc. ヾ(ﾟ∀ﾟゞ)
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.