It was three days later since then, the time the sun was crossing the meridian, when the masked noble finally appeared in the pharmacy.
It was Jinshi who shuddered at Maomao’s jovial greeting. Gaoshun was behind him, his mouth gaped stupidly as if to say what happened.
“O-oi, what is it?”
“Shaomao, this here now is Jinshi-sama. Could you have mistaken him for someone else?”
Maomao got offended. What’s with that reaction? When Gaoshun gave the slip of his tongue, he glanced at Jinshi, and Jinshi returned him a fishy look from the gap of his mask.
When Jinshi entered the pharmacy, he sat on the senbei zabuton(A sitting cushion that’s super large and round like a senbei/rice cracker.). As the interior is very cramped, Gaoshun waited out at the entrance of the Rokushoukan per usual. She shut the sliding door and he finally removed his mask.
And there was the usual beautiful face with a single unsightly scar. The pitifulness has subsided greatly with the stitches off, but people who see it will still let out an unwilling sigh. In the meaning that it’s a waste.
The Shi Clan uprising from last year has been amusingly whipped up in town. The beautiful imperial brother and the villain, Rouran, were the stars of the story. It had been the Shi Clan head Shishou when it originally came out, but Rouran came forth to be taunted. The reason must be Jinshi’s scar.
The villainess who greatly scarred the beauty that was unbelievable for the people of this world will be passed down from here on.
Recalling the palace lady with a sunny smile who loved insects, Maomao made a distant stare.
“Don’t you have some business?”
At Jinshi’s question, Maomao jolted.
Maomao took out the illustrated book she bought at the bookstore from the cupboard.
“What is this?”
“It appears to be something sold off by some looter who had stolen from the fortress at the scene of the fire.”
She decided to cover up about the man who escaped from the fortress. She had entrusted him to the head manservant Ukyou, so if she handed him over on her own accord, that helpful man will get angry.
They decided to call the man who had escaped from the fortress with the name Sazen(左膳, Zuo Shan). Since Chou’u, the brat, might regain his memories, they had him use a false name just in case. The man, who also didn’t seem to be attached to his name, is learning the job from Ukyou.
(We recovered the portions that had been sold in the bookstores.)
Ukyou had promptly gathered them for her. It was good that his close friend, a pimp, had just gone to the district where the illustrated book was being sold. It seems they talked and bought it back for her.
In that case, the remaining issue is-
“I think the rest of these illustrated books are in the fortress. I want to collect them.”
Jinshi squinted a single eye and looked at Maomao.
“Why are you collecting that?”
In response to that question, she took out the goods and showed him.
With a thud, the rice-bowl set before Jinshi was mounted with a pile of disgusting insects that had been simmered in soy sauce.
Jinshi’s face stiffened. He shrank back.
“What the heck is this?”
“Simmered locust. It’s mostly grasshoppers(swarming locusts) though.”
Maomao picked up one with a pair of chopsticks and thrust it towards Jinshi. He shrank back even more.
“I’m not eating!”
“I’m not telling you to do that.”
Maomao placed the grasshopper onto a plate, then took out the sheet of paper with insects drawn on it. It was the drawing of grasshopper and locust. The drawing was of before they had been simmered, but she thought he could perceive their characteristics.
“It seems there is a large outbreak of grasshoppers last year. Have you heard anything from the farmers about a locust plague?”
Jinshi’s expression clouded. He sighed deeply as he scratched his head.
“I have received that report. The damage in the farming villages in the north is great.”
However, it wasn’t to the point where there were people dying from starvation. Luckily or unluckily, this year’s autumn had been cold, so it seems the locust extermination had been easy.
“The locust damage has continued for this past couple of years. What about this year?”
Jinshi’s face twisted.
Had he also predicted that situation?
The northern regions would have to be most of the Shi Clan dominion. As long as those people are gone, wouldn’t it have to be the emperor who would manage that?
“For the parts with poor crop last year, there was an arrangement to rotate the emergency stores of the southern regions.”
They mustn’t have gotten around to what will happen afterward.
“If it occurs this year again, it will become more or less painful.”
It is said that the occurrence of the locust plague is due to the emperor not reigning properly. It is insects at most, but it seems, it is historically because of that in reality, that it is the cause of its downfall.
And what would the citizens think, if that happened the year after the overthrowing of the Shi Clan?
(It’s foolish superstition.)
It is not a lot of people who would end the matter with those words.
And then, it is emperor, and people with his lineage, who rules over those people as his people.
“The locust plague is something that happens naturally. It is about what we can do about it. Shall we light a bonfire and lure out the insects, or shall we crush them one by one?”
It’s natural. That sort of thing will make no progress.
“That’s why I’m looking for this.”
Maomao presented the illustrated book before Jinshi.
It is the insect illustrated book that Sazen, the man who had escaped from the fortress, had possessed. There are written notes packed inside.
“I found another volume of the insect illustrated book at the fortress. Locusts were written in detail there.”
Certainly, she had a feeling that it was written, but it was honestly just conjecture. Her eyes passed over the other descriptions, she had only flipped through the insect illustrated book. But, if Sazen had said that he didn’t take it out, it could only be like so.
“The doctor that used to be in that fortress seemed to have researched locust plagues.”
“I don’t know how far he went with it though.”
She explained to him that it was probable that she needed to check.
Hm, Jinshi rubbed his chin. He opened the door and called Gaoshun over. Gaoshun immediately summoned an attendant who had been on standby outside the Rokushoukan.
“We should have it retrieved within a couple of days.”
“Thank you very much.”
Maomao sighed deeply.
It won’t end with that, but the thing that has been spinning in her head for this past couple of days have been mentioned and resolved.
Instead, Jinshi’s complexion worsened. Jinshi, who had changed from his position as a eunuch, looked tired even at the best of times.
What Maomao said, had, in the end, increased Jinshi’s workload.
“Are you tired?”
“As it is. But I’m fine.”
The bags under his eyes were dark. However, the officials and court ladies around him must not recognise it as fatigue but as gloominess.
Even with his facial scar, this man’s inhuman beauty is going strong, thus people will misinterpret his substance.
(At this rate, he’s going to collapse.)
People who are numb to the sensation of tiredness will not understand fatigue even more. Even Gaoshun, if Jinshi said he was fine, is unable to stop him.
(He should sleep.)
If he purposely came all the way here, it would be better he took this time resting in his room.
Maomao faced Jinshi in amazement.
“Jinshi-sama, why don’t you take a rest?”
“Why so suddenly?”
“I’ll prepare you a bed immediately. Please sleep.”
Maomao stared at Jinshi. She caught sight of the scar on his right cheek. As she observed the neat stitches, she involuntarily cast down her eyes.
The wound her dad stitched and the salve smeared on top of it, she wanted to keep staring at it. Jinshi’s scar might remain, but she wanted to see it heal faster.
“Are you telling me to sleep in such a place?”
“Can you not sleep alone?”
Maomao had said it slightly jokingly. However, as expected, she was treating him too much like a child.
“It’s a jok—”
“Yeah, alone is no good.”
Just as she was going to correct herself, she got interrupted halfway.
It seems sleeping alone is lonely.
Maomao poked her head out from the pharmacy door and called the kamuro who was nearby. She got her to summon the madam for her.
“What is it?”
When she relayed the matter to an unmotivated madam, the eyes inside the wrinkly eyelids shone.
“Wait a quarter-dual-hour(thirty minutes).”
(Can you prepare with that?)
Giving a backward glance to the randomly enthusiastic madam, Maomao held out the tea that is effective for fatigue towards Jinshi.
Maomao said, guiding Jinshi to another place.
The place she brought him is the highest floor of the Rokushoukan. The room, surrounded by the highest-grade furniture, is spread out with the full set of cushions. Since they were imbued by incense, it is filled with a sweet aroma.
“Please rest here. Work is important, but a break is also essential.”
She had thought that the madam would overcharge again, but it seems the crone had put some thought into this, she rented them the best room as it is. The madam having prepared this room in a quarter-dual-hour, is a big thing.
She might have thought that it is a better plan to give a good impression to a noble.
“If you wish to take a bath, a medicine bath has been prepared. I don’t know if the sleepwear will suit you, but please use this.”
Maomao handed over the soft cotton sleepwear.
Jinshi’s look of surprise gradually shifted into a gentle smile. It wasn’t the celestial maiden’s smile, but the effect that bewitched both men and women is unchanged.
“I’m going to take a bath.”
Jinshi headed for the connecting bathroom. The bathwater that the manservants had taken several round trips to fill up should be at the perfect temperature.
Maomao patted down her chest in relief.
Gaoshun, who was in the corner of the room, also looked like the wrinkles of his brows had eased.
However, the moment Jinshi opened the door that continued to the bathroom, he froze. Some seconds passed, and he slammed the door shut and rapidly drew towards Maomao.
“Why are there lightly dressed women in the bathroom?”
“They’re pros so there’s no issue.”
Since he’s a young master whose nanny peels mandarins for him, she didn’t think he would take a bath alone. She prepared attendants just like how when the emperor takes his bath, and while she was at it, asked them to give him a massage.
“… do you hate massages?”
“Does it end with just a massage?”
“There are many cases where it doesn’t.”
Since it’s the service industry, if there are those who give additional service that is difficult to speak of if the customer asks for it, there are also those who do not. It is common knowledge in the pleasure district.
Jinshi ignored the bathroom and came back.
“What about your bath?”
“I’ll hold back on that.”
“What about changing clothes?”
“I’ll do it myself.”
Jinshi said, throwing off his clothes and putting on the sleepwear.
There was no feeling in the matter-of-fact impression.
Maomao courteously picked up the fallen clothes, folded them neatly and put them in his luggage.
Maomao took the bowl and small teapot that had been left on the side of the bed. She poured out the liquid from the teapot and passed it to Jinshi.
“Is this a sleeping-draught or what?”
Jinshi said, holding it in his mouth. It must have a strange taste.
“It’s an analeptic(T/N: think Viagra).”
At Maomao’s words, the tea spurted out of Jinshi’s mouth.
“Why, why an analeptic?”
“I heard that is best when gentlemen are tired.”
“…are you saying this knowing the meaning?”
“What other meaning is there?”
Maomao said. Jinshi gave an awkward-ish, shy-ish expression.
(It’s hard to say it openly huh.)
Nevermind that he is gentlemen, It must be embarrassing to speak about that kind of biological thing. Jinshi is still young – could it be that he is not as mature as he looks?
Considering that, Jinshi’s reaction was a little different to what she expected, but she shouldn’t mind that.
Maomao continued speaking to Jinshi who kept lowering his eyes.
“Well then, what kind of girl do you like?”
Maomao clapped twice and a troupe of five gorgeous girls appeared from the inside.
All of them were sweet and still retained their innocent looks.
Again, since he often commented about her sense of virtue before, she tried arranging for virgins. It is more desirable since they won’t have diseases either.
It was difficult to have all of them arranged from the Rokushoukan, so they also talked to other brothels and had some temporarily sent in.
The madam had knitted her brows, but it was hard to arrange just that with the short notice.
The girls had only heard that the other party is a noble, so they were quite eager. They sighed from the beauty that was visible from the gap of Jinshi’s mask.
Speaking of that popular noble, he was taken back with his mouth stupidly gapped open. It was understandable even under the mask – Maomao saw his silly actions.
In the corner of the room, Gaoshun wasn’t just clutching his head, he was pressing his forehead against the wall.
“Are none to your liking?”
The ones who reacted to Maomao’s inquiry wasn’t Jinshi but the courtesans. Each and every one of them directed their gestures what they believe is their charm towards Jinshi.
“All of them are inexperienced. The madam has checked properly.”
How she checked that, she shall take by conjecture.
Jinshi, who was moving stiffly like a puppet, looked at Maomao.
“…for the time being, I just want to sleep. Let me sleep.”
“Is that so?”
Maomao drooped her shoulders in disappointment and requested to have the dissatisfied courtesans withdraw from the room.
She went to Gaoshun whose shoulders were even more drooped,
“What about you instead?”
and when she asked,
“I am a hen-pecked husband,”
he said. Indeed, offering courtesans to a married man is a bit problematic.
Since the taciturn attendant was finding it hard to remain standing, she decided to have him sit on the sofa for stability. He had politely refused an empty room with a complete set of futon.
Maomao carefully covered Jinshi with the blanket.
Just as she was going to leave the room herself, he grabbed her arm.
“Sing me a lullaby.”
She was on the verge of refusing, but he was glancing at her with the puppy dog eyes he occasionally displayed. Besides, with the fruitless effort at present, Jinshi’s fatigue hasn’t seemed to have been vanquished.
“I’m lousy at it.”
“I don’t mind.”
Slowly tapping to the beat on the blanket, Maomao started to sing. It is a nursery song sung by courtesans.
It didn’t take much time for her to hear the sounds of Jinshi sleeping.
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.