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It got busy after that.
There was nothing from Jinshi. He didn’t tell her to leave the children be, nor that there was no point in doing so. He didn’t immediately send them to the execution grounds either.
Maomao had no idea, but it was a blessing for her.
She became desperate resuscitating the children. She was grateful that she was permitted to stay in a village along the way without returning to the capital like this. Though it was out of use nowadays, the village once prospered as a health resort, so it was the ideal place for recuperation.
Since she had made such a racket for hot water or something, and moreover, it was Jinshi who had prepared it for her, no one would think it wasn’t strange. People gathered around the carriage in a bustle.
With Gaoshun’s quick decision, it was decided that Maomao’s condition had gotten worse, but that became chaotic in its own way. Since, the monocle tactician with the strained back had turned up creeping on the floor like a wraith.
Afterwards, the weirdo tactician being bundled up in a futon by Rahan and several subordinates, forced to drink a sleeping-draught, and then forced to ride the fastest carriage back to the capital was a truth that sounded false.
They must be fearing for the payback that would follow, but Rahan would somehow get away with it, Maomao thought. She pretty much also knew about that man’s adopted son. This guy is considerably cunning despite his appearance.
Taking the opportunity with another request, she had Suirei come along with her. Basen also accompanied them as supervision, and together they stayed in the village. One of Basen’s cheeks were largely swollen and he was frowning more than usual, but she was thankful that he worked as he was told. She felt that the number of guards was excessive, but she figured that more hands were appreciated.
Suirei was out of energy, merely watching as Maomao warmed up the children. Maomao got angry and beat the daylights out of Suirei’s face.
Medicine isn’t omnipotent. It is difficult to determine the right amount of poison for children with small bodies to drink. As a result, the last one didn’t wake up at all.
Not waking up meant death.
“In any case, this must be what you compounded? Are you going to casually say that a doctor failed even as a joke?”
Basen came in to cover up for the terrified Suirei who had her hands on her cheeks. Although Suirei was of the Shi Clan, her living signified her noble lineage. And this person was beaten up by Maomao.
“Oi. How dare you!”
“Please don’t butt in! Leaving that aside, hot water! And a brazier!”
It looked like Shenmei had bullied her stepchild, but that didn’t concern Maomao. Maomao didn’t have a gentle personality that went as far as to have deep empathy for the misfortunes of others.
In truth, there was no doubt that Rouran had wanted to leave this job to her older sister. But the current Suirei was like a husk.
She won’t be useful like this. Anticipating that, she must have brought Maomao along as a backup.
“I ended up coming to this place because of you. Hold some responsibility for your own doings at least.”
Suirei made a jolt of surprise, but then she started to move unsteadily. She went to the children who had yet to wake, examining their eyes and looking inside their mouths.
All the while, Maomao looked after the child who was still in a dangerous condition.
After everything was said and done, all five children were revived.
Maybe because they were in a state of apparent death for a long time, the children were docile at first, and it was only after a couple of days that their consciousness cleared up.
The children who woke up first asked where their mother was, but the child who woke last remained distracted.
Nonetheless, he ate his meals properly and answered back clearly. Maomao treated that child in a different room.
Suirei was a reliable court lady from the start so she worked the hardest. Though Basen stood watch over her so that she wouldn’t get any strange ideas, she looked fine for now. At least, she looked fine while she was looking after the children.
Thanks to that, Maomao could take her time soaking in the hot spring for as long as Suirei tried her best. Don’t bludge, Basen had told her but that had nothing to do with her.
Half a month passed like so, and their pick-up from the capital came.
For a moment she thought the person who had come was Jinshi, but that was wrong. Shorter and a face devoid of wounds, the person who had looks that were more dignified than graceful was someone Maomao knew.
The former high-ranked consort had turned up at the declined health resort disguised as a man. The village girls and aunties looked at Ah Duo with cloudy eyes. No one must have realised she is female.
“He’s a little busy. So I’ve come on behalf of him.”
Saying that, Ah Duo beamed as she looked at Maomao and the others.
“Oi, Freckles, I wanna eat dim sum.”
The boy, whose voice hasn’t broken, opened the door and came in. His name is Chou’u(趙迂, Zhao Yu). His looks were good, but he looked foolish with his two front teeth fallen out.
The naughtiness has set in his demeanour, but it was only a couple of days ago when he finally moved about energetically.
Until then, he was just distracted and sleeping. Was the fact that he was moving about because of his youth or his good fortune?
The child who was made to drink poison and didn’t wake up until the end, that is Chou’u.
The children who would have originally gone up to the gallows with their parents were given different names. The other four children went with Ah Dou, and only Chou’u is in the pleasure district.
Luckily or unluckily, Chou’u lost his memories. Also, considering how half of his body remained lightly numb, she could honestly only think that his fortune was good.
To the point of thinking that he wouldn’t wake up in the worst-case scenario.
Though she had struck her, Suirei is outstanding as a doctor. Maomao considered wanting to call her to teach her as well. The woman is staying at Ah Duo’s place along with the other four children.
She was told that the children, who were kept alive for no known reason, were going to be brought up at Ah Duo’s place hereafter. There was talk that splitting them up would be better, but it seems Ah Duo said that it was a bit much and took them under her wing.
And Suirei as well—.
Saying that with his memories lost, it was better for him to be raised away from the other children. And so, Chou’u came here.
There seemed to be various complaints and such, but that had nothing to do with Maomao. It shouldn’t have anything to do with her, but why was this brat who cannot be helped here? In a certain meaning, she was told that it was the safest here, but she had no idea what was safe.
Maomao dropped her fist on the crown of the brat’s head who was wilfully rummaging through the medicine shelf.
“Ow—!! What was that for?”
“Don’t just eat as you please.”
Maomao snatched away the package of high-class rice crackers she received from her older sister and threw over the brown sugar pieces that were on the same shelf at the boy.
Chou’u seemed to be satisfied with that and left the pharmacy while munching on the brown sugar. A good-natured manservant played with him, so he must be going there.
It was truly the saying that children have high adaptability. Rather than being uncertain from his lack of memories, as he was loved by the pretty older sisters and the manservant played with him, it seems he didn’t have that much discontent at present. The madam seems to be chuckling to herself over her purse, so her eyes won’t be rising up for a while.
Maomao slovenly rolled on the bed while crunching on salty rice crackers. She folded two rumpled zabuton, placed it under her head and faced up.
It was decided that Ruomen, her dad, won’t be returning to the pleasure district and will serve in the imperial court. There wouldn’t be anyone who could decline a personal request from the emperor.
Consort Gyokuyou gave birth safely.
She was told that a red-haired boy was born. Normally, there would be fanfare for celebration, but since the inner palace wasn’t a place for this to happen, Consort Gyokuyou quietly slipped out of the inner palace. A consort going outside the inner palace meant that she became an empress(后, kisaki. The emperor’s wife. Different to the Empress (女帝, jotei, female sovereign) that was the previous emperor’s mother). It was like that in other words.
(I have to go gather ingredients for medicine.)
Before her dad left the pleasure district, it seems he had made and stored a lot of medicine, but that sort of thing was obviously already gone. The plot must also be overgrown.
Maomao had a lot of things to do in the pleasure district.
At least, more than in the imperial court.
She hadn’t met up with Jinshi since then. He wasn’t someone she could meet if she thought of meeting.
There was no way that the man who took command of the army and sustained a wound on his face can return to the inner palace as a eunuch.
He must have returned to his former – his original appearance.
For the treatment of his wound, even if there was no Maomao, there were many outstanding court physicians – even her dad was there. Surely, even if Maomao was there, there would be nothing she could do.
It would be impossible for Jinshi who is no longer a eunuch to have a suspicious, skinny girl close at hand. There was no need to sneak around from now on as well.
And so, it was best that she returned to being a pharmacist in the pleasure district.
The madam couldn’t be thinking again of selling her off if her dad wasn’t around.
(Ahh, I’m sleepy.)
She had stayed up the whole night yesterday making medicine. It is difficult to make new medicine. You can sometimes produce toxicity when you try to improve the efficacy by compounding it multiple times.
She had inflicted wounds on her left arm and tried many varieties, but she really can’t get the efficacy.
Since she was at it, she had tried smearing it on her ear injury, but she still didn’t know.
Was it because of the long years of accumulation? Her sense of pain seems to have dulled.
(Do I really have to cut more to know?)
Maomao looked at her left hand and tightly tied up her pinky with a cord. Then she got up and grabbed a small knife from the drawer of the cupboard.
The moment she was going to bring the small knife down,
“What are you doing?”
She heard a beautiful voice behind her.
She turned back. There was a man wearing a strange mask at the doorway. Behind him stood a familiar worldly-wise man in his prime and the madam who was rubbing her hands together with an insincere smile.
“Are you finished with work?”
Maomao untied the cord around her finger and returned the small knife to the shelf.
“Can’t I have a break once in a while?”
The madam gently served tea, gave a satisfied smile and said, “Take your time”. The tea was first class white tea, and the snacks were rakugan(落雁, a hard candy derived from Ming Dynasty China. Made from a mixture of starch powder and sugar, and pressed into shapes with red bean, chestnut etc in the centre.). They were high-class items that were only brought out to the guests of the Three Princesses.
“Is this place fine?”
For some reason, the hag was asking Gaoshun about that. Since he nodded, she made a look of slight regret. “Take your time,” she closed the door.
(What does he want to do?)
First thing, Jinshi finally took off the mask. The face that could certainly be called his most valuable asset – if you exclude the scar running across it – was revealed.
Maomao pat down the doubled zabuton and set it before Jinshi. He flumped down on it.
“You seem tired.”
Maomao set the tea and tea cakes before Jinshi.
Jinshi brought the teacup to his lips first.
“There were a variety of things. Human affairs were originally under the Shi Clan’s jurisdiction.”
He let out a tremendous sigh and his brows knitted. Was it her imagination that she thought his actions resembled Gaoshun somehow?
She heard the people of the Shi Clan were finally executed. The lot had been those who were in the fortress.
Their territory became the jurisdiction of the country. The land of the north was abundant in forestry resources, so the national treasury must be profiting hereafter. There would be plenty of change leftover even if they lowered the tax that was taken during the time of the clan.
If there was lumber, it could be used for various things.
(I’ll be happy if they use it for paper.)
Since there were abundant forestry resources, she would be happy if the papermaking industry could advance. If they were to do so, the quality of paper should rise and the price should decrease.
While thinking that it must be the Shi Clan’s intervention that the industry did not advance until now, she had crushed medicine with the mortar before she knew it.
“…oi, don’t treat me like I’m invisible.”
Jinshi munched on the cookies and drank down the tea. When she saw that his teacup was empty, Maomao was going to get up to serve tea when he grabbed her wrist.
“What is it?”
Jinshi tugged Maomao back down to sit. He stared at the side of her face.
“Can this not be healed?”
“There are no issues with function.”
Jinshi stared at Maomao’s ear. Her ear had a triangular notch on it.
(He smells sweet.)
It wasn’t the fragrance of confectionary, but incense. Suiren’s taste is good as usual, she thought as she recalled the slightly mean, ageing maid.
It was at that moment.
Jinshi’s face closed in. There was an uncomfortable feeling on her ear.
“…what are you doing?”
Something lukewarm-ish, warm-ish touched, no, wrapped around her ear.
“…it seems that there are townspeople that say that if you put saliva on it, it’ll heal or something.”
“I can’t say anything, but there are cases where human saliva has toxins.”
Just like how a wound could fester if you don’t disinfect it properly after getting bitten by a beast, there are also cases when it happens if you get bit by a person.
“Some poisons don’t really have an effect on you, right?”
Normally she would be shuddering and would want to edge away, but it was a little different today.
“It might even become medicine on the contrary.”
He said, taking out a package from his breast pocket and placing it on Maomao’s lap.
When Maomao opened it, her eyes shone. Something that looked like yellow clay was there.
The exact moment Maomao tipped forward, he embraced her tightly. Because of that, it was difficult for her outstretched hands to reach for the bezoar.
“First we’ll continue from where we left off.”
Saying that, Jinshi smiled in delight.
Jinshi’s wound she saw from the front was still in stitches. Perhaps it had been redone, the sutures were neater than before.
(Did dad resew it?)
When she was thinking that, she found herself reaching over to Jinshi’s face. Jinshi squinted and made a somewhat innocent expression.
“Are you accumulating poison too?”
It was at the moment when he said that and reached over to Maomao’s chin.
There was a loud bang.
The window on the opposite side of the door, where money and medicine were handed over to customers, was widely opened.
“Look–! You, wanted this, right!”
Ahem! Chou’u was there, his chest puffed. He was holding up a large lizard with his right hand.
“Oh, you did it.”
Maomao slipped through Jinshi, who suddenly dropped his head, and seized the lizard. She put that as it is into a jar.
“Huh? That dude, why is he crawling on the floor?”
“He’s tired because of work. Here, your reward.”
Maomao passed over another piece of brown sugar. Chou’u ran away again to parts unknown.
“…I should have sent him to the gallows.”
There was a deep groaning voice. He was just like a stray dog.
Was it because of the injury? She felt that Jinshi’s androgynous air was a tad fainter and he was bolder now.
There was a small crack in the doorway when she looked at it properly. And she saw eyeballs.
Maomao flung it open, and discovered the madam and Gaoshun who had jumped back in surprise.
“Gran, prepare a single bed. And the incense is the one that makes you sleep well.”
The madam clicked her tongue in disappointment and started to prepare the bed.
Maomao looked at Jinshi who was crawling on the floor.
“Thank you very much, Jinshi-sama.”
With the bezoar in hand, she spontaneously broke into a wide smile.
Jinshi looked at Maomao in a daze.
“Please take your time resting.”
“I get it. I’ll rest.”
(This way is better.)
However, Jinshi made no signs of moving.
She kneeled down and Jinshi’s shoulders shook.
(That reminds me. Is it fine if I keep calling him Jinshi?)
When she thought about that—.
“I’ll use this as the pillow.”
Maomao was sitting in a seiza. Jinshi planted his head on her lap.
He wrapped his arms around her back so the crown of his head was resting against her belly.
He was silent. She didn’t know if he was feigning sleep or something.
The madam slipped in the high-class quilt and incense in the corner of the room and left.
Maomao sighed deeply and reached for the mortar.
As the aroma of incense intermingled with the stench of ground medicine, she heard the sound of Jinshi sleeping.
(My legs are going numb.)
While thinking that, Maomao started to make new medicine.
Imperial Court 2 END
T/N: And so they lived happily ever aft— hell no. Jinshi-sama still has years of cockblock ahead of him (probably, since Maomao is adamant about keeping the status quo…) Poor Jinshi-sama. Slow steps, dude, you’re getting there.
So, the manga won’t be catching up anytime soon and my eyes literally glazed over when I tried to start on the next chapter…
…time to take a break. Since there is a one month time skip for the next arc, one month (thereabouts) it shall be ;D
See you guys then! As usual, thanks for reading :3
I’m gonna take it easy next arc. I’m about near burnt out from this arc, and I feel my translation quality has been slipping for a bit lately, so apologies for that.
btw, is there a way to differentiate the two different phases of locusts? Locust and swarming locust? Is there a more elegant way of phrasing the latter?
Also, shall I make some vocabulary changes for next arc? It doesn’t really change anything, just makes it sound nicer is all… e.g.:
Prostitute > Courtesan
Medical Officer > Imperial Physician
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.