It was ten days after Jinshi’s visit when Maomao saw any progress on the matter about Consort Riishu. And on the topic of what the trigger was, it came from an unexpected personage’s request.
“What’s your business?” she asked.
“How cold of you. To speak to your adoptive brother like that.”
“Huh? I don’t have any siblings but.”
There was a short man standing before Maomao. He had unruly hair and was wearing round glasses over his fox eyes, but aside from those, his face didn’t really stand out.
Normally, she would let him into the pharmacy, but she was in the middle of compounding a lot of medicine, so she was borrowing the entrance of the still-closed Rokushoukan.
And if they were in such a conspicuous place, the cheeky brat will wander up to them.
Maomao grabbed Chou’u’s collar like it was the scruff of a kitten’s neck. The boy, being the boy, was clutching onto maomao the cat with both hands. The cat with the superbly distasteful name was now living with them after that time. She couldn’t throw it away as the courtesans liked it. It was despicable either way.
“Is this big bro Freckle’s big bro?” the boy asked.
“Why?” She had already said that he wasn’t just now. Did he not hear?
“He looks a lot like Freckles.”
“….” Maomao narrowed her eyes. She carried him over to the head manservant Ukyou who was manning the entrance. That man, being that man, looked pained from the morning shift – yawning, he passed the boy over to the manservant apprentice Sazen.
Sazen made a blatantly bothered look, but seeing as though he had special feelings for the kid, seemed to agree to babysitting Chou’u without any complaints. As Chou’u currently wasn’t in the state to remember his past, they judged it shouldn’t be an issue. This man was handier than expected – helpful that he picks medicinal plants for her when he’s out on his walks. She thought to try to teach him how to make medicine eventually.
It was irritating that this man, Rahan, resembled Maomao a lot. If he eased his fox eyes a little, took off his glasses and changed genders, he would be two peas in a pod with Maomao.
It was really irritating.
“So, what’s your business?” She returned to the topic. Rahan occasionally showed up at the Rokushoukan with that weirdo. Maomao only recognised him as an accessory of that unpleasant being.
If he had no issues with it, she supposed it would be fine to speak while standing here.
“Is the pharmacy free?” he asked.
“I’m currently in the middle of compounding a special medicine, so I can’t have people come in carelessly,” she answered.
That was a lie. It was just a pain to clean up.
Rahan took out a money bag from his breast pocket a little reluctantly. And then he placed coins on Maomao’s palm.
“With this paltry sum, the hag here can only lend you the overhang of the roof,” she said.
“What a terrible miser,” he said.
(Like you’re one to say.)
Maomao knew he came second after the madam here. Due to the fact that he had an outrageous relative, he won’t catch up with only the wages of an official, so he does various things on an extensive scale.
He unwillingly added coins, but Maomao shook her head. It was when he placed on three times the original sum did she finally nod and call for a kamuro nearby to summon the madam.
The kamuro quickly disappeared inside the shop, and soon after, a crone that looked like a wrinkled withered branch appeared.
“Gran, we’re renting a room,” Maomao said.
“This sum is enough for precisely a half-dual-hour,” the madam said, holding the pipe in her mouth. She prodded the lit ashes with embers.
“It’s quite expensive,” Rahan said.
“In that case, it’s fine if you don’t use it. However, if you take her outside the shop, I’ll take that sum,” the madam answered.
Maomao wasn’t really the property of the Rokushoukan, so the madam didn’t have any rights to stop her if she went outside whenever she wished. However, it was frankly a pain to deal with Rahan, so she didn’t mention that. From the start, he had no rights to go into the pharmacy until she cleaned up.
The room the kamuro led them to was for middle-class courtesans when they take in guests. Since no one was using it now, they only laid out a mat as an apology on the bare wooden floor.
It looked painful to just sit on it directly, so Maomao brought seating cushions from the pharmacy and set two down. She gave him cushions for receptions but had no plans on even serving him tea.
The rooms of the Rokushoukan were made reliably as a standard.
The walls were thick so sounds of love-making wouldn’t leak out. There were guests that dislike it when the sounds leak, but they occasionally rent it out as a place for confidential talk.
“You know this individual?”
The same time the doors closed, Rahan took out a sheet of paper from his breast pocket.
It was a portrait drawn with a fine brush.
“This is….” Maomao said.
It was the drawing of a woman. Since it was fine to call her a youthful maiden, she had noble features. Maomao wouldn’t know if it was just that, but the comments stated, “red eyes, white hair, white skin”. If it was like so, there was certainly one person that came to mind.
“If it’s Lady Pai, a lot of people aside from me would know her,” she said.
“I guess so.”
However, he showed her another sheet of paper.
“Who?” she asked.
This time, it was the portrait of a man. However, drawings were different from real people, and moreover, Maomao didn’t try to remember the faces of people she had no interest in.
In other words, she didn’t know.
Rahan lined up the two portraits side by side.
What could it be? She recalled something, but it didn’t come up. Could this perhaps be a person she had seen before?
“The other day, this man appeared in a certain meeting. Of course, the person himself hadn’t intended for that to happen. It seems he was working behind the scenes,” Rahan said.
However, it was bad that he got visible for a mere instant. And he also got seen by the worse person.
“Among my esteemed father’s subordinates, there is one who can never forget a face he sees once,” he added.
There would be no loss to possess such a special skill if you were the subordinate of that weirdo who can’t discriminate the faces of other people at all.
“That gossip-loving person went to see that Lady Pai’s show. It seems he was set up by the details of the talk. And also, his subordinate caught sight of the man on the portrait, when I borrowed him for a bit to come along to where I went to.”
This man, while being an official, worked on various businesses. It would have to be his meeting.
“When was it?” Maomao asked.
“About two days ago.”
One day would be for making a request to the weirdo tactician. Then it would be for drawing the portrait, and after some more back and forth, would it be today for him to finally get around to her?
“And so, why did you come all the way here? Normally, I wouldn’t be related, right?” she said.
“My business partner that time is a merchant from Sha’ou, you see.”
Sha’ou(砂欧), the country over the desert west of this country. Aside from the mountains in the south, it was situated with a larger country looking over it in three directions. It feels small at a glance, but if you take the opposing argument, it was formed as a centre of trade.
Maomao’s face dimmed. “…isn’t, that bad?”
“It would be bad if you think about it normally, yeah.”
This fellow, who did various things in the capital, was currently associating with a foreign country.
Even Maomao who wasn’t interested in politics knew that it would be bad to be a foreign country that is surrounded by its enemy.
“Furthermore, the national character of Sha’ou is a place of non-aggression.”
In other words, even if you try to arrest him as a criminal, they cannot move as they will.
“Normally, you cannot make a move.”
If they were merchants who went out of their way to come all to the way to this country, it would be difficult to think that they aren’t moving in line with their country.
“It’s troubling since I can’t say anything about it,” Rahan said.
After all, it was that one subordinate with the good memory who is the evidence. Even if that person himself gave a speech, the others would say that he could’ve seen it wrong if he was the only one who had seen it.
And it seems, as a result, he came around to Maomao.
“And so?” she asked.
“I want you to come along as a food taster,” he answered.
In other words, leaving whether that aforementioned man is the actual person or not aside, Rahan was unable to turn it down with the reason that it is an important business discussion. But he wanted to protect his own person.
If that man was the real thing, could that Lady Pai be together with him as well? If that’s the case, there was also the possibility that they would serve a yet unknown poison created through alchemy.
“You’re interested, right? You might even encounter unusual poisons,” he said.
What an unfair hand.
Does he mean to pull Maomao by saying that?
However, there was one concern.
“What about that man?” she asked.
“Worry not, he won’t be coming along for this and I won’t talk about your going either.”
It was needless to point out that man was that weirdo.
However, it was also irritating to have him reply as is here.
“Isn’t there my dad?” she asked.
The dad she was talking about here is Ruomen. Even if you make a mistake, he wasn’t a weirdo.
He gave a mean smile.
Compared to Maomao, her dad would know more about western poisons.
“Even though my esteemed adoptive father is in the medical office every time?” Rahan asked.
Generally, it was a different matter if it’s a neighbourhood pharmacist, but there’s no way you can take an imperial court physician out as you please.
And so, Rahan showed up to bring the neighbourhood pharmacist.
“I’ll pay you,” he said.
“I can’t believe the words of a miser,” she answered.
“You’ll get to see western medicine.”
“Can’t be helped,” she said, and so, Maomao will be travelling with him, though–
“…” She watched in a daze.
An average built middle-aged man was standing there.
He was conversing with Rahan.
“And so, Uryuu-sama.”
She felt that she heard a name she recognised.
Maomao wanted to have not heard it, but she heard the name many times. It seems that he was entrusted with this occasion.
Every last one of them neglected their principal occupation, she thought, but the talks won’t proceed with just merchants.
(You should just get poisoned.)
Maomao sighed as she considered something unbecoming for a food taster.
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.