The shuffling sound of footsteps.
Basen, hearing that sound from the inside of the room, got off his seat and went to intercept the visitor before they showed up.
The one who traversed the stone hallways was a clerk with an armful of documents. “Good work,” Basen dipped his head, accepting the papers. The clerk politely bowed his head, though he glanced into the room he was supposed to bring the papers into.
The owner of the place that was established close to the deepest part of the imperial court was famous for seldom showing his face. And even if he were to go outside, you are unable to bear witness to his visage.
He always dons a mask whenever he goes out. You cannot see his bare face. A noble personage who broods about his ugly appearance due to the burns that damaged his skin when he was young. In the past, he only hid his face with his long bangs, but within these couple of years, he doesn’t show his face at all.
It might be more difficult for him that strange rumours are circulating in the imperial court regarding this gentleman.
That he was the pitiful youngest child doted by the empress dowager. Or that the emperor shuns him.
He was the current crown prince.
It was said that his ugly appearance was due to the women who had withered in the flower garden of the previous emperor. The previous emperor had reigned for a long time. Throughout that, it was also said that the number of fallen flowers totalled to the thousands in the inner palace.
Was his ugly appearance a curse?
It was a laughable story for Basen.
The documents in hand, Basen entered the office. Amidst the airy, soft incense, there was a person sitting in the office.
The person had their long hair was tied up into a bun at the back. They glided a brush across the paper.
Basen mistook that person for his master for an instant, but when he looked properly, it was clearly a different person.
It wasn’t their looks. It was their air that was very similar.
The person’s looks were middle-aged, features gallant and refined. Sleek brushstrokes were polished, the brush was held very much like his master.
However, the person right there could only be a different person.
Even their gender was different.
“Do I finally have work?”
He heard a dignified voice. It was high for a man, low for a woman. Her height was also the same. She was tall for a woman, she wasn’t even that tall for a man.
That person, who cannot be said to be a man or a woman either, was a high-rank consort in the inner palace up until last year. Ah Duo, after leaving the inner palace, should have been staying in the emperor’s villa.
It was so. However.
Ah Duo looked over the documents she received, and her lips curved. It was more a sneer than a smile. She made that kind of face.
Since leaving the inner palace, she was here acting as Basen’s master’s body double. Though he said she was acting, it was no more than her just settling the work she received instead.
“There’s nothing we can do. About this huh.”
Ah Duo twirled the brush on her fingers.
He understood what she was trying to say. These documents should just be seen as merely for form’s sake. On paper, if they just overlook each of them separately, the estimation would lower.
Ah Duo sorted the documents into two piles. Right or wrong, those two.
It was fine to separate them, but they’ll all be overlooked in the end. This was the duty of the incompetent decoration. If this were to continue for several years, wrong documents would increase in huge numbers just like this.
Eventually, you should just pick at it from a different place.
This was originally Basen’s job.
He just sorted documents in the office where there were hardly any visitors. There was nothing interesting about it, but since it was his duty, there was nothing he could do about it.
Recently, since Ah Duo performed it instead, it became that Basen went out to accept a different job.
This too, it is often that normal was something different. For a job of a military official he originally wanted to follow, there was a large opening.
He bore with it. There was nothing he could do with it nonetheless.
There were few who knew the real form of the crown prince.
Because he thought that, there came the worth to do it.
He bragged that he was a person who was worthy of that much trust.
He wondered what Father was thinking.
His father. He recalled the man who currently assumed the name ‘Gaoshun’.
Not just Gaoshun, he even had objections regarding his master.
Why were they trying to win over such a girl?
It was mystifying. He couldn’t hold it in, and when he found himself asking his father, his father made quite a delicate expression. For what reason, he got hit when he tried to approach the girl herself the next time.
Afterwards, he heard from the explanation he got from his father, that it was more convenient in various ways to keep the girl close at hand. He heard that she knew a lot about pharmacy from beforehand, but he thought if it was like that there was no need to specifically have her close.
He was told that girl was a descendent of the ‘Ra(羅, Luo)’ family.
When he heard that, Basen inadvertently shrank back.
In this country, aside from surname and name, there is a single character conferred that denoted the family. This was mainly possessed by families that had served the emperor for generations. It was often the case that the males of direct descent are conferred that single character in their name.
In Basen’s case, ‘Ba(馬, Ma)’. It was a name was bestowed from the emperor several generations ago. It was used by Basen, his older brother, and in Gaoshun’s original name.
Speaking of the ‘Ra’ family in question, it was a lineage that had been around since ancient times. It was mostly a family that turned out a great number of military officials, but they also manifested all types of talents aside from that. In the history of this country, Rii, all had turned out to be prodigies.
Their orientation was wide-ranging. It changes greatly according to the person’s interests.
Depending on the interest of the person in question, what you understand from that, was that the prodigies of the “Ra” family had many eccentrics.
The current clan head, Rakan, was a weirdo that was ridiculed as the tactician. You cannot predict his actions. He is a person who constantly wanders around the imperial court looking for amusements, but his ability is guaranteed. In regards to discerning talented people, his eyes were sharper than anyone. The talented people he took up, every one of them, were people who can be acknowledged as superiors in their field.
This eccentric man had no thoughts of joining factions.
He only thinks of whether it is amusing or whether he is interested in it.
You don’t want to get near this man, however, it is just better to not have him around as an enemy. That was the unspoken agreement in the imperial court.
And, speaking of this man’s relatives, he only had a nephew that he adopted as his son. He wasn’t married either. That was what Basen heard.
However, this man actually had a daughter, and moreover, it was said that he doted on her.
When he heard that the daughter was this girl, Basen couldn’t shut his opened mouth.
And at the same time, he understood.
The ‘Ra’ clan turns out a great number of prodigies. On the other hand, it seems that many of them have something lacking as a human.
To say it this way, Rakan also. He, whatever he was thinking, suddenly on a certain day, drove his father who was the clan head at the time and his younger brother out of the family. The two expelled people were relatively decent for the ‘Ra’ Clan – that is, they were incompetent. As for the nephew, he was more profitable to follow Rakan, and became his adopted son.
The heavens, in compensation for gifting superior talent, might have granted them fatal weaknesses.
If this kind of man doted on his daughter, he wanted to tilt his head, but on the other hand, he could also understand. Feelings were sometimes one-sided.
Currently, there were several factions in the imperial court. Among those, the ones that throw their weight around is the clan of Shishou who was favoured from the era of the empress.
Honestly, he had to be an existence that is a thorn in the side of the emperor. Since the splinter from the era of the previous emperor was left as it is.
What should he do with the fellow who grew fat in the previous era? That came to his head.
What would happen if the fellow won over that man of the neutral faction into his camp in the imperial court?
The significance of his influence wouldn’t change that greatly. However, his impression would change greatly.
In a certain meaning, it was logical. However, he felt there would be more troublesome issues beyond that.
Basen recalled his master from after the falconry.
Dizzy from being affected by the strong sunlight, his master left in the middle of the party. He thought he would return afterwards in a better condition, but his expression was worse than when he left. It was as if all his vitality was completely sucked up by a revenant, he was making that kind of face.
Behind him who was walking unsteadily, there was a girl who was clutching into some mushroom with great importance for some reason. Although she made a complicated expression, sometimes, when she gazed at the mushroom in her hands, her expression eased.
Just what happened? It wasn’t Basen who could ask that.
What he could only say was, as far as his master’s gaze followed, the cause of his exhaustion was the girl. The question of whether it was a good thing to have this girl by his master’s side arose.
This cannot be left at it is.
As Basen thought that, he put the documents that Ah Duo had sorted in order.
T/N: Ah Duo is back 😀
We’ve finally reached the second half of the arc. The lighthearted days are coming to an end.
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