It was extremely noisy inside the carriage on the way back.
Basen kept tapping his shoes. Needless to say, Consort Riishu was the cause of it. When Maomao saw his reaction, all her doubts went up in smoke, but it was troubling that way.
Consort Riishu was also, very much towards this guy.
“Basen-sama,” Maomao said.
“What?” Basen looked at Maomao unhappily.
“From the way things look, it seems Consort Riishu has no problems. As the partner for Jinshi-sama.”
“…Ah, ye-yeah, no, we still don’t know….” he stuttered.
“At least, won’t they be happier than they are now?”
Whether for Jinshi or for Consort Riishu.
When Maomao plastered on a fake smile, Basen bit his lip.
(And yet you found faults about other people.)
I want to think that you are bothering other people when you are beside yourself about yourself.
Maomao played innocent to her own matters, stabbing it with needles.
The carriage stopped at the Rokushoukan first. In terms of distance from the villa, Basen’s house was closer, but he had left his horse here.
She descended the carriage, thinking that since she had come along she wanted him to make up for today’s share of pay.
When she did so, she noticed that there was a different carriage stopped by the Rokushoukan.
Maomao and Basen exchanged glances.
Cold sweat dripping, they descended from the carriage and stealthily peered through the gap of the window of the pharmacy.
And there, was a masked man who was sipping tea while being surrounded by high-class tea cakes.
(No, it should still be early for his visit.)
That was also why Basen had turned up today.
However, it was the unmistakable truth that that gentleman is here.
Judging from the variety of tea snacks, she grasped that he had been here for a while.
Certainly, this atmosphere also got to Basen too. This is bad – his complexion changed. She didn’t know what was bad, but she knew that it was bad. They crept over to the entrance of the Rokushoukan and snuck a look inside.
Gaoshun, whose brow was deep with wrinkles, was being followed by Chou’u.
They had planned to peek in secretly, but even their presence was enough for this military man.
Gaoshun’s eyes snapped wide open. Then he stood up and rushed towards them.
Basen was frozen on the spot.
Gaoshun, who wordlessly approached them, was radiating pure rage. He bowed at Maomao, then grabbed his son’s head with his right hand. “My slightest apologies. Jinshi-sama is waiting, so I bid you to quickly head in.”
Gaoshun said and dragged Basen outside.
Rather than a dog carrying his puppy by the scruff by his neck, it looked more like a raptor catching a wild rabbit – why was that?
For the time being, she saw them off like she was looking at a calf that was rocking the wagon.
Maomao entered the pharmacy.
She felt a piercing gaze. It was a clingy gaze that she could grasp even from beneath his mask.
“You took your time, huh?”
(Since I didn’t hear that you were coming.)
Maomao bowed her head slowly and entered the cramped room. He hadn’t started with the tea snacks. She couldn’t sit, so she asked him what he wanted to do with them. When he told her that he didn’t want them, she gave it to Chou’u who was loitering outside. The kamuro gathered in a bustle and quickly finished them off.
“Basen?” Jinshi asked.
“He’s being detained by Gaoshun-sama,” she answered.
“…is that so.” He assumed a haughty posture, arms braced on his chin. Was it her imagination that he looked sulky?
Maomao closed the door and he finally took off his mask.
Maomao took the salve out from the shelves. She had mixed several varieties of crude medicine and let it ferment for a couple of days, so it should be fine by now.
“Well then, excuse me.” She knelt and scooped out some salve with a finger. The wound on Jinshi’s cheek was already healed, but there was still a scar. It might be better if only the stitching scar on his right cheek goes away.
Maomao gently smeared the viscous salve on Jinshi’s scar. She held her breath to not breathe on it.
His long lashes were lowered. The direction of his gaze was at Maomao’s finger. It looked like he was following the ball of the finger that was smearing salve onto his cheeks.
When she leaned closer to check the injury, his warm breath fell upon her.
(Is this guy a flower spirit?)
She thought that there was the faint fragrance of flowers. He had drunk rose tea. Yeah, it would have to be that – she was a little relieved.
The salve was something prescribed by her dad a long time ago for a courtesan with a burn scar. While it didn’t make the scar vanish as soon as you smear it on, it promoted the growth of new skin.
There was new skin growth on Jinshi’s cheeks, but the redness stood out. She wanted to have it stand out less even for a little.
(He could have just smeared it on himself.)
Jinshi had Maomao apply this medicine for him each time. Did he have Suiren do it for him in his room?
Maomao was ticklish, so it would be all the better that she did it for herself.
Was this because he’s part of the elite?
“Where did you go?” he asked.
“…to Ah Duo-sama’s.” she answered.
Basen would have admitted it anyhow, Maomao said honestly.
“Yeah, she welcomed me.”
She imagined what came after the then. That’s why, even if she didn’t add in the proper noun, Jinshi seemed to have understood.
“You seem to have a lot on your hands,” Maomao emphasised that she was unrelated as she praised him.
“Yeah, the other party also has various things to consider.”
The other side – could he be talking about Consort Riishu’s family?
From hearing the story, it seems that Consort Riishu’s clan was structured like the Shi Clan. They were bestowed the single character name “U”.
If she remembered properly, she heard that the clans who received the single character names from the sexagenary cycle (More specifically, the earthly branches.)were the descendants of the retainers from the time this country flourished. In other words, it meant that Gaoshun’s Ma Clan was an ancient clan of the same esteem.
In the current time with the Shi Clan gone, she understood that they were making themselves look superior. She also understood that they were trying to obtain favour by sending their other daughter into court. It wasn’t that she didn’t also understand the bestowal talks of the high ranked consort who wasn’t the emperor’s taste to Jinshi.
However, the thing she was bothered about was–.
(Why is he aiming for his daughter’s life?)
No, that was what Consort Riishu had suggested. The possibility of that being a mistake was also high.
However, in actuality, the consort was assaulted.
Was it a different subordinate?
Or was it-
One more thing.
About why Consort Riishu was being neglected by her father to that extent.
It can only be said that the matter where the high ranked consort got wedded to the previous emperor was sorrowful. Maomao understood that the consort’s father had sent in his young daughter when he knew about the tastes of the lolicon emperor, but at that time, the previous emperor had been bedridden by illness.
Even if the consort was sent in at such a time, there would be hardly any possibility her of becoming a mistress.
Even though there was still another way to use her as a tool of politics.
“Oi, what are you pondering about?” Jinshi looked at Maomao dubiously.
(Not good, not good.)
This incident is unrelated to Maomao.
It was uncouth for her to stick her head in it.
“….Can I ask, one question?” she asked.
She had a belated thought. “About Ah Duo-sama. That person seems to have quite a rational personality, right?”
On how she devoted herself to being the emperor’s instructor while thinking him as her younger brother, and on how she immediately advocated the talks between Jinshi and Consort Riishu.
The former consort was someone that is easy to use for Maomao, but there was also the part where she wanted the woman to understand people.
It was about why this person, among the others that were in the inner palace at the time, took Consort Riishu under her wing. Even though there were other girls who were brought into the inner palace for the same reasons, Crown Prince Consort hadn’t considered about taking all of them under her wing.
There was one thing to consider from that.
“Did Consort Riishu and Ah Duo-sama know each other from before?” she asked.
“Your guess is good.” Jinshi made a look of slight embarrassment. “Ah Duo-dono and Consort Riishu’s mother were friends.”
“She was friends with his highness too.”
When it comes to also being friends with his majesty the emperor, the question gets heated.
As boorish and uncouth thinking strikes the core of people, they would care nothing about same-sex friends and would talk about opposite gender relations differently.
To say nothing of it when the partner is the gentleman who stands at the top of the country.
As if he read Maomao’s expression, Jinshi told her something that was difficult to take in.
“At the time, Ah Duo-dono didn’t wish for a second child.”
And also, the emperor of that time was bedridden by illness, whereas the current emperor who was the crown prince then didn’t have another consort.
“I heard the Empress proposed some idea to the U Clan. Often times, under the Empress’ directions, the imperial child of the reigning emperor of those times had summoned the consort’s mother.”
In those times, although the consort’s mother had a husband called Uryuu, he was merely a groom she was given from blood relation after all. It was said the main family of the U Clan had other considerations, as said groom had a concubine from elsewhere and had begotten a child.
Maomao wanted to cover her ears, but unfortunately, she was held down by Jinshi who had noticed her doing so. Jinshi whispered into her ears so that only she could hear. The fragrance of perfume and the salve intermingled, tickling her nose with a peculiar scent.
“Is it okay for someone like me to hear this?” she asked.
“It’s a rumour. There’s no proof,” he said.
However, this thing he called a rumour could be none other than the truth for those who believe it. And if there were people in the vicinity – even more so when their characters are bad.
“Does Consort Riishu know about this?” she asked.
“Wouldn’t it be cruel to tell her?” he countered.
She got the answer to her question from before.
About why Consort Riishu is being ignored by her father.
Her anger boiled.
(What a bothersome bastard.)
What a narrow-minded man.
While he goes to make a child himself from elsewhere, was it no good for his wife to do the same?
Whether this rumour was true or what – Maomao didn’t know.
Ah Duo recommending Consort Riishu to the emperor – did that signify the rumour as false? Or was it that she didn’t know about the rumour?
Does it mean that, with the emperor disliking sleeping with Consort Riishu, the rumour was true?
If so, considering how it would turn out with her betrothal with Jinshi, it would be a consanguineous marriage between distinguished people. If they were a different gender, it didn’t matter if they were uncle and niece or half-siblings.
It’s just that it was pitiful for Consort Riishu to be the only one kept in the dark.
“What are you thinking of?” Jinshi asked.
“You’re too close, Jinshi-sama,” Maomao said.
Jinshi’s lips were on Maomao’s ears again.
The fragrance of rose tea was still in the air.
“What are you thinking of?” he asked.
“…for a better future for Consort Riishu.”
She won’t say make her happy.
That was beyond Maomao’s realm.
“Jinshi-sama, please value Consort Riishu.”
“…Right now, I’m driven by the need to grab the head that’s right in front of me and rammed it into the wall.” Jinshi’s voice was mixed with deep anger. He was also tugging Maomao’s hair like he was going to pull it out.
“If you have to torture me, it would be better if you cut me. I want to avoid a fatal wound though.”
If it’s a cut, she had medicine she wanted to try out. This would be better than getting beaten up.
“This counter is new,” he remarked.
“Rather, Jinshi-sama, your return has gotten fast.”
Normally, he would be slumping his shoulders with a single statement. Had he gotten a little tougher?
“I learned that it makes no progress.” After saying that, Jinshi drove her to the wall, still grabbing her hair. Is he really going to slam me onto the wall? She closed her eyes.
However, her head didn’t hit the wall.
Her hair was tugged down; her face forced up.
And then, her lips touched something.
A tender rose tea breath entered Maomao. Her eyes opened from the sudden action. Her posture was back to normal; Jinshi had his back faced to her.
“…” Maomao watched that back wordlessly.
Jinshi put on his mask without turning around and opened the door of the pharmacy. “Oi, I’m leaving.”
Since he was wearing the mask, she didn’t know what kind of face he was making.
“Please don’t forget the salve.” Maomao wrapped the medicine up in cloth and passed it to Jinshi. He snatched it off her hands and left the pharmacy.
Outside, there was a tired Basen looking like he got a lecture, and an even more tired Gaoshun despite being the angry one.
After seeing off the three people, Maomao closed the door and sighed.
She wiped her fingers over her lips.
“What a pain.”
Let’s revise what she just said.
It’s become difficult.
YES JINSHI M’BOY YOU FINALLY LANDED THAT KISS CONGRATULATIONS
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.