For the time being, since Ah Duo had asked her, Maomao did what she had been told precisely. She hadn’t prepared anything, so she got them to take her to the Rokushoukan on a fast horse to pick up the teaching materials.
Perhaps due to the recent efforts for the diffusion of books, the price of erotic books seemed to be gradually decreasing. Though, even with that basis, it seems the madam still overcharged her.
Different to last time, she brought something that was a little atypical. Let’s give up on putting what it is into tangible words. It’s a little, no, there’s nothing quite like it; when she took it out to show Consort Riishu, the consort made a face like she saw a cockroach and just retreated until her back touched the wall.
Since Maomao was at it, she also tried calling for Ah Duo, but the woman blatantly drew back. It seems that the former consort’s night life back when she was the crown prince consort was extremely proper.
Since the children tried entering the room every now and then,
“Hey, it’s too early for you.”
“You can’t look.”
She covered their eyes and chased them back out.
During the lesson, blood rushed to the consort’s head many times, so it was troubling. Each time, the head maid who came along with Consort Riishu tended to her.
She tried teaching her the programme that courtesans have before they take their first guest. Together with the tastes of guests, there was a certain job that was done beforehand for courtesans.
“Want to try doing it?”
When she asked Consort Riishu, the consort immediately shook her head.
She’ll also leave what kind of job it is to her imagination.
And so, the time the lesson ended was when the sun had already gone down. She was treated to dinner since she was at it. After that, Ah Dou also told her to stay overnight since it’s already late.
(Should I decline?)
Since it was sudden, she would have to respect Maomao’s will. Maomao wanted to compound medicine, and when she went out, Chou’u was noisy somehow. And the other day, he was also noisy when she went to the quack doctor’s hometown.
Maomao decided to take up her invitation.
The food was tasty. The bath was spacious. The bed was warm and soft. It must be cotton that was stuffed in the futon – it was different from covering yourself with a sheet on top of a pile of straw mats.
Maomao was going to fall into a state of bliss, but she shook her head. “Not good, not good.”
She put on a jacket that had been prepared on top of her dressing gown and went out of the room. She only relayed to the outside guard that “I’m going out for a walk.” He would come along if it was suspicious, so she had no problems if he did so.
She shuffled along the corridor. It was called the emperor’s villa; it was already gorgeous. The imperial court was right beside it, so the question of why the villa was built in such a place exists, but that would most likely have to be due to the atmosphere.
The tranquil atmosphere that was different to the inner palace and the imperial court flowed here. The children who have been creating a racket in the afternoon must be only making sounds of slumber now.
The courtyard was illuminated by moonlight. Maomao didn’t understand the hobbies of the wealthy, but there was a large stone in the centre of the garden. It was bored with holes – she heard that it was good omen the more holes there were.
Leaning against it, was a person who was pouring herself a drink.
(She hasn’t changed.)
Maomao sighed. It was this kind of setting last time as well. That time, she was on the top of the inner palace outer wall in the guise of a man just like then.
“Oh, have I been discovered?”
It was suitable for Ah Duo, whose hair merely tied up at the back, to be called a young man. Her body, which had few curves, emphasised her manliness all the more.
“Yeah. Aren’t you cold?”
Instead of replying, Ah Duo showed her the wine. The alcoholic content seemed to be high – just drinking that would warm you up.
Ah Duo slapped the spot next to her, telling her to sit here. She carefully set down a towel for her.
“In that case, excuse me.”
Maomao said, not holding back. She didn’t think that much would anger Ah Duo, and moreover, she rubbed her sleepy eyes.
Maybe because Ah Duo was close by, the guard waited a fair distance away. If he was that much far away from them, as long as he didn’t have rabbit ears, he probably can’t hear their voices.
Ah Duo was also the same in that thought.
“…so, what’s your business?”
“It’s helpful that we get to the point.”
In truth, she wanted to speak in a place that was a little warmer, but it wasn’t bad if there was wine. After Ah Duo passed her a cupful of wine, she drank directly from the gourd.
“May I speak hypothetically?”
“What if Ah Duo-sama’s father is actually a stranger with no blood relation to you?”
Ah Duo scratched the back of her head roughly.
“My dad died before I was born. I didn’t have a stepfather. My mum raised me by being his majesty’s wet nurse.”
“It’s hypothetical. What would you think if that your dad told you that you must marry on a certain day?”
Who Maomao was talking about, would Ah Duo understand? She was worried about that, but it seems the woman understood.
Ah Duo scratched the tip of her nose, and then tugged her hair.
“…so that’s what it’s about huh.”
“Yeah, it’s about that.”
“I don’t think my father was that important though.”
Maomao was also the same, but at least, her adoptive father was a respectable existence. In this world, there were a great number of people who consider the relation between women and men to be the greatest. However, Maomao was one who didn’t think that was everything.
And one more thing.
She thought this was the greatest fault for Ah Duo.
“Isn’t it also the same with his majesty?”
At those words, Ah Duo blinked rapidly.
“…isn’t that fine? He paired up with the person who was like his older sister, you know.”
(Paired up, you say…)
She declared it. It was disrespect to the utmost. However, Ah Duo could say it because she is the emperor’s milk-sibling.
(Is that how it is?)
The emperor was like a younger brother to her. Even if he sported a splendid beard, even if he stood at the top of the country, he was her younger brother.
Ah Duo, who became the instructor for her younger brother, must have seen that through clearly. Because she could take it as such, she thought that others could do the same.
People believe that other people can do what they can do – that kind of thing.
(Younger brother huh)
She suddenly recalled that the emperor didn’t take in another consort when he was a crown prince aside from Ah Duo. And she was left in the inner palace even after when she was no longer able to have children.
“No, it’s nothing.”
Ah Duo tilted her head.
What she didn’t know – Maomao thought that was cruel from that alone.
And it was also cruel to pretend not knowing.
“If she is something that’s like a daughter to me, she would also be like a daughter for his majesty huh.”
Ah Duo giggled, and put the gourd to her lips as if to swallow her laughter.
“But then, as this rate, I don’t want to have this daughter be in the position to feel ashamed in the inner palace.”
(That is natural.)
Although it was less than before, because she is a high ranked consort in name only, everyone looked down on Consort Riishu.
If you stand there, you can’t stand here. She was unable to have her way with it. This is common in this society.
“Even so, if there is something that’s unbearable, there is one other method.”
Glancing at Maomao, Ah Duo grinned. It was a somewhat mean expression.
Maomao didn’t have anything else to say. She only steadily emptied the contents of the cup.
It was a couple of days after she returned from Ah Duo’s villa. Maomao was sitting down by the riverside, looking at the greenery that was gentle for her eyes.
(Hm, a good feeling.)
Maomao picked up the mugwort that had been growing on the side of the road. Her basket had fuki buds and water dropwort. The horsetail had only just sprouted so she refrained from picking it.
She thought of bringing Chou’u along to have him help her, but she supposed that kid would mistake it with poisonous dropwort and pick it. She needed to teach him properly.
The soil near the river was fertile. Occasionally, she took walks outside the capital like so and pick wild herbs. Before, she got ahead of herself and went out too far, and got kidnapped and sold by human traffickers, but she was taking care that this sort of thing won’t ever happen again hereafter.
There was a large outer wall surrounding the capital, but it was free to come and go by principle.
Around the capital, fields spread out along the main road.
In order to carry in the food supply to support the population of several ten thousand in the capital, it would be inconvenient to restrict movement.
Of course, large horse-drawn carriages operate by affirming their luggage, but Maomao dipped her head by the side of that and entered the capital.
The regulations of south gate, since it is directly connected to the pleasure district, are quite lax. Wagons loaded with bags of rice show wooden slips to the guards and enter.
Well then, what shall I do with the spoils I got from the riverside, Maomao thought. As the dropwort and fuki buds can make up for dinner, shall I use the mugwort for moxibustion or shall I make kusamochi – the possibilities of its use were endless.
And so, when she walked with a little bounce in her steps, someone grabbed her shoulders. And just like that, she was being dragged into the alleyway.
Although it’s daytime, this place is the pleasure district. The public order is bad even if it’s within the capital. Maomao, without a moment’s delay, took out a clump of bitter medicine from her collar and pressed it towards the person’s eyes.
Hit by the medicine, the man who had dragged her in held his eyes with both hands and collapsed to the floor.
His appearance can be taken as a rouge, and yet she recognised him.
“What are you doing, Basen-sama?”
“That’s what I want to ask you!”
As he rolled on the floor, Basen gushed out profanities.
Basen who was pressing his eyes with a damp cloth and Maomao moved places. She was going to head towards the Rokushoukan, but since Basen told her to “Stop”, she stopped. Even though his face couldn’t be seen, from his tone of voice, he had implored her with that earnestness. He seems he got terrified of getting his important thing snatched away by Pairin-neechan the other day.
Though Consort Riishu is the same, this man is this man so it’s problematic, Maomao thought. His father Gaoshun has already gotten a grandchild from another child, so it doesn’t seem like he would mind that much though.
Basen, seeming as though the pain in his eye has finally subsided, removed the towel.
“What’s this place? The stables?”
If the Rokushoukan was no good, there was no other place. Do you live in such a miserable house – he looked at her in pity.
“…are you, by any chance, in debt?”
“Umm, don’t worry about me.”
From the humble atmosphere, even after they came inside, he seemed to be pitying her again. We can just go outside, Maomao said as she brought in the hatchet stump. That was for Basen to sit on. Then she went to sit on top of the large stone that was over there.
There were no signs of life around them, so it should be no problem.
Normally, tomorrow or the day after would be fixed date Jinshi came. To have Basen show up before meant that there must be some urgent matter. To the extent that he had to purposely go out and look for Maomao.
With a complicated expression, he mumbled.
“If there’s nothing in particular, can I go do the washing?”
“Oi, wait a bit!”
Basen signed tremendously and drew his face towards Maomao.
“Hey, do you know what kind of person is Consort Riishu?”
“If it’s about that, it’ll be better if you ask Gaoshun-sama.”
It was a given that Gaoshun, who was always with Jinshi, would know more that Maomao.
He came to talk at a very good time.
“I’m troubled because I can’t do that.”
Basen said with a serious expression.
For Maomao, Gaoshun is outwardly stoic, but he is a rather experience mischievous old man on the inside. He doesn’t show that side before his son, only projecting the image of the outstanding attendant of the imperial brother.
“Even if you ask me what.”
Her personality was timid, a crybaby, and she was still young in various respects, but if you say it in another way, she’s pure. Her likes were understandable from her youth, but she stimulated the urge to protect with her underlying cuteness.
“…is she really like that?”
“Why do you doubt that?”
Basen, eyes steady, with his arms crossed, beckoned Maomao to come closer.
“When Jinshi-sama, and Father heard her name, they looked reluctant.”
I can’t follow the conversation – Maomao tilted her head.
“Concerning her parentage, I was bothered that she was from the recently corrupted U Clan, but it’s not to be the point of refusing. No, it’s rather…”
“No, please don’t mutter to yourself.”
Playing innocent to what she normally did herself, Maomao said to the groaning Basen.
“…you won’t tell anyone?”
“If it’s like that, then I don’t particularly want to hear.”
“Oi, we’re all the way here, so I’m going to say it.”
Saying that, Basen whispered into Maomao’s ear.
“Consort Riishu bestowal talk has come up. Her partner is Jinshi-sama.”
So that’s what Ah Duo’s smile from the other day meant.
Maomao smacked her fist on her palm.
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.