Maomao got a manservant to quickly send off the letter she had written. Since it will have to follow the steps if it were to be directly delivered to Jinshi, she asked Gaoshun or Basen for the most part. Though, as Basen was lacking in quite some parts, she usually addressed it to Gaoshun.
The reply to the letter came promptly the next morning. And soon after, the carriage to pick up Maomao arrived. It was headed to the place where Suirei is. If she remembered properly, she heard that it is where the former of the Four Madames, Ah Duo, is.
Maomao passed all the illustrated books into the custody of the attendant who showed up, then closed the door of the pharmacy.
“How nice–. Are you going out?”
Chou’u was greatly interested, tugging on Maomao’s sleeves. Maomao grimaced.
“Take me along—.”
There wasn’t just Suirei at Ah Duo’s place. The Shi Clan children were also there. It would be meaningless to take the trouble to have him raised separately if she were to bring him along.
“I’m going for work. You can go sweep the shopfront.”
She pounded his head, then handed him over to Ukyou who was nearby. The child-loving Ukyou piggybacked Chou’u and distanced themselves from the carriage.
If half his body didn’t remain paralysed, they could have raised him as a manservant. However, the guards of the brothel required strength at it is.
(Shall I make him into a pharmacist?)
However, he exhibited not even interest at present. When Maomao was his age, she had learned a hundred medicinal compounds.
(Even though it’s interesting.)
Maomao made a slightly sulky face, then boarded the carriage.
Ah Duo’s estate, as the emperor’s villa, was greatly imposing. Due to that, Maomao was forced to change her clothes before she disembarked from the carriage. Though Ah Dou didn’t seem to care about this sort of thing, it had to be etiquette.
Maomao clutched onto her long skirt, walking so to keep it clean. She passed under the splendid gate and walked on the garden that was spread out with pebbles. The garden, that looked like a picture with garden stones, pebbles, and moss, was beautiful that it made you feel the gardener’s pride.
After walking for a short while, the owner of the residence, Ah Duo, and one other person was in the room she arrived. Both of them assumed the appearances of gentlemen. The other person was Suirei.
Her dignified tone was unchanged – rather, it was livelier than before. Her appearance as well. Her current lifestyle must be well-suited to her.
Suirei – as if that was what she was used to, or for a different reason – was also dressed as a man. She stood a step behind Ah Duo, expressionless as usual.
“There shouldn’t particularly be a need for introductory remarks. I’m present, but do speak as if I’m not here.”
Ah Duo said, and sat comfortably on the couch.
She signalled them to sit with her hand, so Maomao – being the guest – sat down next, and Suirei sat last.
(Even if you tell me to speak as if you’re not here.)
Wouldn’t it be normal to end up getting anxious? Maomao, feeling the challenge of doing so, placed the illustrated books the attendant brought in over on the table.
For now, Jinshi’s side should take more account of the things that would be bad if known. She had no choice but to proceed as it is.
“Do you recognise this?”
“It is what my teacher used.”
Could it be because she is before Ah Duo? Suirei’s speech was more courteous than usual.
“Is this all of it?”
At the question, Suiren looked at the illustrated books with her head tilted.
“…it is missing one volume. I’m pretty sure there were fifteen volumes.”
“Do you know where the last volume is?”
“I do not know.”
It didn’t look like Suirei who was speaking quietly was lying. She shouldn’t have a reason to lie, above all.
She no longer had any relation to the Shi Clan. She, who had no reason to appear in public after all this time, is only left with a life where she is kept until she dies.
What will happen to her from now on, what the emperor was thinking – Maomao didn’t know, but she thought that it was a waste.
If she didn’t know about the book, then she could only strike on this question next.
“Then, your teacher, where is he now?”
She didn’t overlook that Suirei gave a start. Ah Duo watched the woman as she drank tea.
“So, he really is alive.”
Maomao said in confirmation.
“The resurrection medicine, did your teacher try it on himself?”
Suirei lowered her gaze. Her eyes slowly closed, and she nodded in resignation.
“…it is as you say. If he didn’t do so, he wouldn’t have been able to leave that fortress.”
As an experiment as well, Suirei’s teacher drank the resurrection medicine. And from her hints, Maomao guessed that he was still alive. Only just—.
“But, there would have to be something I want to know that you won’t let out?”
“What are you talking about?”
At Maomao’s question, Suirei responded, her eyes cracking slightly open.
“Chou’u, that’s his current name. Had you guessed it when you saw that child?”
Chou’u, upon dying from drinking the medicine, had revived. However, as a result, the freedom of half his body was stolen. He even lost his memories.
“Even when I say that he lost his memories?”
“It’s a little different, but it’s that part. Rather, you might have walked passed him without knowing.”
“What do you mean?”
Suirei lowered her lashes sadly.
“Do you remember the hot spring village we used to treat the children?”
“My teacher is one of the old men bedridden there.”
She could recall a place like that in the hot spring village. There were many people who had already started dementia wandering about.
“He had already forgotten who I was. If teacher was in good health, that child wouldn’t have thought about involving you in that incident too.”
When she mentioned ‘that child’, Suirei’s face darkened once more.
Suirei and Shisui, what kind of relation the two had built up as half-sisters – Maomao didn’t know. It was only that the smart Suirei must have realised that the reason Shisui had caused the matter had to also be related to herself.
“…is that how it is?”
Crestfallen, Maomao felt energy escaping from her whole body.
She had thought she was getting information after all this effort. No, she still had hope.
“Then, I want to know about the locust that your teacher had researched.”
Maomao placed the insect illustrated book before Suirei.
However, Suirei shook her head again.
“I did not take part in that case. Insects, would fall into that child’s territory.”
And ‘that child’ was no longer around.
Once again, Maomao drooped her shoulders.
“When he was ordered to create the elixir of life, the materials teacher had researched up until then were almost disposed. The things brought with him were to the extent of what was in that room.”
In order to focus on making the elixir of life, they tried to erase the research he had done until then. Suirei’s teacher, who had wanted to continue with it no matter what, had used Sazen and studied on various things.
Suddenly, Ah Duo, who had been listening quietly, moved. She set the teacup on the table and looked at Suirei.
“I heard ‘that child’ was a very bright child.”
“No matter how bright a child she was, she’s no longer around.”
It can’t be helped that she is not around. There was nothing they could do.
“Then, could that bright child be gone without leaving anything behind?”
There was a thud. Maomao had hit the table with her hand, and Suirei had stood up energetically.
“…no, my sincere apologies.”
“It’s fine. Be more at ease.”
Ah Duo said to the apologising Suirei.
“I hate formality. I want you to be more at ease. This one doesn’t mind that kind of thing, aren’t you brooding?”
No, she should have apologised, Maomao thought as well. However, she realised that she was stuck on something that Ah Duo had said just then.
What couldn’t it be?
She traced her memories. Was there something at the fortress? Or was it before that….
Before. The inner palace. Medical office? No, that’s wrong.
If she remembered correctly, that place was….
Maomao banged on the table again.
“It’s the clinic! The clinic. What happened to the clinic now?”
Before Maomao was swept away from the inner palace, she was in the clinic. The thing she discovered there. The book that was inserted into the bookshelf. That illustrated book, wasn’t that also on insects?
(What a cunning person.)
Recalling the girl she can no longer meet, Maomao laughed. Aiming barely for that, thinking that she might have wanted to show Maomao, she went beyond chagrin, and laughter welled up.
As she laughed in delight while recalling Shisui’s pranking face, Maomao slapped the table many times.