Maomao returned to her seat wondering what could have happened.
Cheers erupted around her. Everyone’s voices were merry as though they were tipsy.
Only Jinshi’s group was patiently waiting for Maomao’s return.
“Hey, what was that?”
“Even if you ask me what.”
The one asking her in rapt attention was Basen.
“Don’t tell me. You got bribed with money?”
Leave out the rude matters, Maomao thought. As Gaoshun’s fist descended immediately, Basen was silent.
“I didn’t take anything.”
Maomao opened up her palms and showed them the inside of her sleeves too.
“Did someone see you?”
There were only Lady Pai and her male helper on the platform. They didn’t see the character nor what tube she had put it in as it got covered with a cloth, so they couldn’t have known.
(Don’t tell me…)
Maomao suddenly looked at the platform. The lantern hung down from the ceiling, red tassel swinging.
If there had been a mirror, by any chance, Maomao had thought that they could have seen the character she had written, but that was wrong. It seems hard to attach something like that to the ceiling, and above all, they would require another mirror to reflect it. With that much haze, and in the dim lighting, the mirror would also end up getting foggy. Even if they didn’t use a bronze mirror but an imported high-grade mirror instead, they still shouldn’t be able to see it.
And above all, that Lady Pai seemed to have poor vision.
She should only see it without getting blurry beyond one shaku.
She speculated how it could be for that case, and the next event began.
There was a new table with various tools on it on the platform.
Lady Pai picked up a small, thin piece of metal from the table. She also prepared a different plate. The male helper took the piece of metal and plate, placed it on a tray and went around the theatre. The piece of metal was polished – it merely looked like a plain piece of copper. The plate was deep so the liquid inside wouldn’t spill.
Of course, there was no time for him to go around all the way up to the second floor. Sounds of discontent could be heard above from here and there. Since this is the difference of seating price, give it up.
Lady Pai took the piece of metal and plate from the man who came back. And then, she put the metal on the plate and before Maomao noticed, that plate was sitting over a prepared flame.
When Lady Pai put that in there, she started to chant something like a spell and dance. In the hazy dim room, her entire body looked like it was glowing.
After the Lady finished dancing, she picked up the chopsticks and took out the piece of metal. She displayed it.
(The colour changed.)
The reddish colour of copper had changed to silver.
The people nearby raised cheers. “Ohhh!”
“It changed from copper to silver!”
The people far away could not see, but after they saw the reactions of the other people, they started to bring themselves forward. The guards would stop them from going up to the stage. They should know that they cannot get that close.
The Lady washed the metal with some liquid and wiped it with a cloth. And then, she put it directly on the flame this time.
The cheers got louder.
“The silver turned to gold!”
The silver changed to shimmering gold this time.
The Lady shook it with the chopsticks, and as it radiated heat, she placed it on the plate. So they could see properly, the man went around to show everyone the board that was shining gold.
“…can you explain this?”
Jinshi said as he crossed his arms.
“Afterwards. Can I enjoy the entertainment first?”
Maomao said as her eyes glittered. Honestly, she had thought that it would be waste to look away.
Even if the maiden isn’t a fairy, she had that much merit.
After that, Lady Pai performed several interesting shows.
She placed a wet rock on paper. She chanted a spell, and a moment later it burst into flames.
As she wondered where the butterflies came out from nowhere, they flew and burnt away into ashes.
All the audiences cheered. And in the final act—.
The Lady brought over a shining silver fluid.
As everyone had their attention on that mysterious liquid, the maiden poured it into a small cup and drank it all down.
Without thinking, Maomao was about to get up.
However, as she was half up, she stopped and watched her.
“Did you enjoy this night as well?”
The Lady smilingly descended from the platform and left.
Inside the theatre in the lingering heat, the audiences delightfully talked about what just happened. Some people carried fire in their eyes, and some looked at the place where the fairy was in worship.
However, only four people, Maomao included, were not that excited.
“It doesn’t feel extraordinary.”
Jinshi finally reached out for the wine cup.
Maomao reflexively stopped his hand.
Basen watched in disapproval.
Jinshi put down the cup.
Maomao picked up the cup in front of her. She smelled it, and placed a drop on her skin. After watching for the reaction, she tasted it with the tip of her tongue.
“…I don’t know clearly, but I feel the arousal effect is a little strong.”
There was little alcohol content. It was easy to drink as it was close to fruit juice, but there was a trace of a different complex taste. It was a mixture of several types. She understood that there was a bit of salt mixed in it.
“I think it’s not a poison.”
However, it will enhance the effect comparative to the concentration of alcohol content. It was just that.
The swinging lantern.
The dim room.
The mysterious haze and wondrous fairy.
The unfathomable phenomenon occurring before your eyes.
(Oh hey there.)
Would this be a sufficient reason for anyone to accept it blindly?
And, what proportion of the people in this theatre turned out like this?
While thinking good gracious, Maomao sipped the wine.
(It really is a little salty.)
It was the instant she thought that it would be tasty if they didn’t add salt.
Maomao suddenly stuck her finger in the cup. And then, she glided the fruit wine-like ink across the table.
“What are you doing?”
“So it’s something like this huh.”
Not long after she answered Jinshi’s question, Maomao looked around.
(If it’s something like that, there would be some trick in addition to that.)
She regretted that she should have looked around more when she was standing on the stage when possible. Could there be something over there?
The haze was thicker than anywhere else. It was hot. Her head ached. And strangely, her ability to concentrate was inhibited.
Could that steam, possibly? Could that be vapour coming out from the back of the stage?
If so, she also understood the cause of the heat.
Then, the headache.
The sensation was as if there were mosquitos buzzing.
What could that be?
When she thought could it be, she glanced at Lady Pai who was at the back of the stage.
Maomao stuck her fingers in her mouth, puckered her lips, and blew.
“What, you blowing a whistle or something?”
Basen squinted and watched Maomao.
The sound wasn’t that loud. People were talking loudly around her. She shouldn’t have heard from this distance.
And yet, Lady Pai’s shoulders shook with surprise and she seemed to look around.
(Ahh, so it’s something like that huh.)
Maomao grinned, and then suggested, Shall we go outside?
It was cold outside. If possible, she wanted to go inside the nearby restaurant and talk, but it was hard while wearing masks. It can’t be helped, she decided to talk inside the carriage.
It was also fine to return to the Rokushoukan and talk there, but the three seemed to want to know what’s what as soon as possible.
Maomao decided to first explain how the copper was changed into silver and into gold.
“That is very similar to something called the Art of Yellow and White(黄白術).”
Would it be easier to understand if she said alchemy? Gunpowder is another thing that is made in accordance with that.
The Art of Yellow and White was among that – the changing of base metals into precious metals.
Alchemy is an art for the prolonging of the human lifespan, but in reality, there are a lot of counterfeits. An emperor from antiquity was left in the records as one who sought perpetual youth and longevity, so much so that he lost his life from an erroneous method.
It was certainly similar, but, speaking of which-.
“I feel it is closer to the alchemy(錬金術, the Art of Transmuting Gold) of the West.”
Maomao nodded at Jinshi’s question.
“I’ve only it from my dad’s stories, but this is actually the first time I’ve ever seen it. However, my dad has seen that in person many times, and understood the structure of it. Even if that did turn into silver, it didn’t necessarily turn into gold. It is covered by plating, it seems to be just a transition to something else from warming over fire.”
Maomao had tried it too, but her dad didn’t teach her the essentials materials. Even if he taught her, there wouldn’t be all the materials in the pharmacy.
“If you want to know the details, please ask Ruomen. And while you’re at it, I’ll be happy if you inform me what he tells you.”
She said, her eyes gleaming.
In addition, the spontaneous burning of the paper too. There is the possibility if you use the by-product made from that process. And making the butterflies can also be taken as probable if they were made with good paper.
The people at that place had poor vision from the haze, and besides, they drank wine that induced drunkenness. Even Jinshi’s group, who did not drink the wine, were tricked, so there shouldn’t be people who would have noticed it.
By the way, the paper butterflies appeared to be a type of magic that is introduced in the island country in the east.
“Then, how did they see through your mind?”
“Even in regards to that.”
Maomao got Gaoshun to lend her two sheets of paper and a portable writing tool. She then layered the two sheets of paper and used an inky brush to write down ‘7’. After writing, she showed Jinshi and the others the paper that was underneath.
“What do you think?”
“What or this, wouldn’t that be a marking on the back?”
It’s fragmented, but the ‘7’ had clearly passed through.
“Yes, it’s something like so.”
“Even if it’s something like this, wouldn’t be found out if there were markings under the paper you wrote on?”
“Indeed, that’s true.”
There had been a black mat underneath the paper Maomao had written on. They wouldn’t be able to see the markings with that.
“But it went through.”
Maomao had dipped the brush with an ample amount of ink when she received it. She recalled the ink had been strangely cheap-looking and had a gravelly texture.
“What if there was something else contained within the ink-“
What about salt? That had been dissolved into the ink. To be used for writing on paper. The ink that oozed out from the thin and soft paper will soak into the black mat. What would happen once they dry that?
The salt that had been dissolved in the ink will dry and stand out.
Of course, salt was just an example, but if that’s the case, they would know what had been written.
“Then, how did they know which pipe was the paper placed in?”
“That, should be sound.”
The sounds of bells and the gong echoed in that theatre.
However, that was one other important sound that had been hidden.
“When I was there, my head was hurting a lot. I believe there was probably a sound in a high level of frequency that I couldn’t perceive being emitted.”
High-frequency sounds hurt your ears. Even if she didn’t recognise it as sound, Maomao seemed have been feeling discomfort unconsciously.
Maomao blew a whistle.
“Everyone should have heard this, right?”
“My ears ain’t bad.”
“Then, as for this-“
She tuned it so the sound was as high as she could make it. Jinshi and Basen had the usual expressions, but Gaoshun tilted his head for an instant.
“I heard that.”
“…I heard that, certainly.”
Gaoshun’s reply was a little delayed.
“That’s a relief. Since it gets harder to hear as you age.”
Gaoshun froze up.
He believed that he was still young, but his body was nonetheless getting old.
“People, have their own different high ranges of frequency they can hear.”
There are differences even within the those with the same age. Just like how there are good and bad for vision, it is also the same for hearing.
Also, she cannot make a postulation, but there are also case where those with bad vision are compensated with good hearing.
“That fairy’s hearing must have been very sensitive.”
She had reacted to Maomao’s whistle from far away in the clamour.
She must have always trained to hear apart the notes of the flutes.
Therefore, there mustn’t have been a kind of flute in the musical instruments in that theatre.
End-blown flutes and transverse flutes both have holes, so when you press those down, the pitch of the sound can be changed. Suppose that the one hundred pipes that had been struck into that box had changes in the hole of the pipe. If Maomao jammed the paper tightly into the pipe, it would be same as pressing down on the holes of the flute.
“So you’re saying, she understood which one it was from recognising the one hundred sounds that passed through? How would that be blown? By taking that the box as the substitute for a flute?”
“There is also that possibility, but there’s a more reliable method.”
The sound of the gong and the bells. With those as the signal, what if they blew the flute ten times? Since they were covered with a cloth on top, there wouldn’t be an issue even if there was the male helper close by. If the man managed the passage that air goes in from the side of the box.
Even if she didn’t learn the one hundred sounds, there will be no problems if she could tell apart ten notes.
“And, regarding how they were blown, you get the explanation from that haze.”
The haze was steam, supposing that there was hot water being boiled from somewhere.
How would be if that steam entered from under the desk? Everyone would only be focusing on above the table, they won’t go as far as to see the structure of the table underneath.
“Do you understand with that?”
Jinshi and the others nodded.
Only Gaoshun was staring off into the distance as he rubbed his own ears.
Maomao gave an explanation regarding the silver liquid Lady Pai had drunk at the end.
“That is a deadly poison. So that no one will copy her, is it fine if you make an opportunity to explain it to the high officials?”
Maomao said to Jinshi with a serious look.
Even if she said one word and didn’t say more, Jinshi was capable that he was able to do as far as two or three.
Despite that, the other person seemed to be several steps higher.
Several days after Lady Pai’s stage, the maiden disappeared without a trace.
Instead, what remained was the incident of mysterious deaths from ingesting poison among the merchants of the capital.
What had she wanted to achieve?
That fairy that was like a white snake.
Leaving behind that puzzle, she disappeared.
In the days of old, the powers that be had all sought for the elixir of life. On that occasion, they took the water-like silver that was both a metal and a liquid as medicine.
Without even thinking that they would shorten their lifespan as a consequence.
That water-like silver, as it is, is referred to as quicksilver(mercury).
At that time, Maomao had wondered what would happen to Lady Pai who had drunk the liquid silver as it is. Mercury, in its liquid state, is none other than a deadly poison if not excreted by the body. When it becomes vapour and is inhaled, it becomes a serious poison once the state changes when it adheres to other things.
It is sometimes used as a medicine. Poison or medicine is dependant upon the way it is used.
As Maomao looked at the vivid scarlet of the cinnabar, she gently packed it up into the medicine shelves.