It was humid in the room.
Rain fell outside, with no signs of stopping. And yet, a young master of a large business and his prostitute was walking under an umbrella with a sense of refinement. She was probably against getting her clothes wet, but she won’t let the chance to go outside escape her. The courtesans’ range of activity is small – the brothel is the cage and the courtesans the birds.
“The crickets are chirping.”
It was Meimei who was looking at the courtesan walking outside with a look of envy. Her shapely lips were eating something. She had dried sweet potato in her hand.
“What a nuisance.”
Rahan’s father, who spoke in a carefree voice, had Maomao carry back a cloth-bag full of dried potatoes. There were still some raw potatoes left, but they were already sprouted so she was told the taste wasn’t as good. Well, she also received those raw potatoes, but it seems the processed version was more popular.
It’s delicious when it softens after you toast it a little. The sweetness is different from sweets made from sugar or honey.
Rahan’s father was the only one who sent Maomao off. The elderly man, Rahan’s mother and his brother were nowhere to be seen. Since the elderly man seemed to have various issues, he might have to be properly observed from now on.
As for Rahan’s mother, if she was younger she might have been able to divorce, Maomao thought. It was likely that she was an arranged marriage prepared by the elderly man. It appeared to be the case, seeing how she was siding with the elderly man.
As for Rahan’s brother, yeah, there’s nothing to be said.
If he broke himself off from the elderly man, he seems to be the type that can become a very normal government official, but whether the person himself wanted that path was a different matter. For some reason, it seems like he has an inferiority complex towards his younger brother Rahan – was it her imagination?
Though this didn’t matter to Maomao either way.
“Neechan, is it okay to not sleep?” Maomao asked.
Meimei should have been working last night. She had finished her afterwork bath. Her hair was still wet.
Sleep when it’s time to sleep – that too was a courtesan’s job. It was also the same for the high-class courtesan Meimei; she starts her practice to polish her arts at noon.
Meimei was eating the potato listlessly. She stared at Maomao with her eyes narrowed. “You see, yesterday, Master(旦那さま, danna-sama. Means Husband, Patron, or Master.), he…”
There should be around three of Meimei’s customers that she calls Master. All of them like board games. One is a government official and the other two are merchants, she thought.
“…said ‘come with me’.”
Come with me – in other words, I’ll take you home. If he had gone out of his way to say that, it didn’t mean an outing with him.
“Redemption?” Maomao asked.
“…like so,” Meimei replied.
Redemption is the same as a marriage for a courtesan. It’s an opportunity to leave the cage that is known as the brothel.
However, Meimei wasn’t in high spirits.
“A good for nothing guest?” Maomao asked.
“Nothing of the sort.”
“The madam against it?”
“She’s over the moon.”
Then it shouldn’t be a problem, but seeing how it’s something that will decide the rest of her life, it had to be something that Meimei can’t decide easily. Once you decide, you can’t easily go back.
Though she is still a popular courtesan now, it will not be the case in a couple of years. From the issue where courtesans and age being something that goes hand in hand, she was at the age where it would be the best time to retire.
“The other party is already widowed, but he has children.”
(Ahh, it’s the merchant.)
One is still young, so it’s the other one. If she remembered properly, it’s the large patron who deals with wine.
“I’ll be against it, if that’s the case,” Maomao said.
“I know right,” Meimei agreed.
The world will gossip if the second wife of a large patron is a courtesan. More than that, if the children have grown up, it’s a given that they will oppose.
“Master said that he’ll have a different house prepared, though.”
That can’t be helped since she lived as a courtesan. You can already say that it’s her work. But Meimei should have a clear idea of the differences for that much.
It’s just that, if Meimei gets redeemed, she won’t be able to come to Rokushoukan anymore.
Meimei, who is emotional even among the prostitutes, might be bothered about that.
Besides, even if she leaves the cage that is known as the brothel, it’ll be the same if she goes into a new cage after that.
Maomao didn’t know if she will ever see Meimei again after this.
Among mean masters, there are those that see the courtesans they redeemed as their property and hit and kick them. Several years ago, a man who redeemed a courtesan at another brothel strode inside to say, “How dare you sell me a weak one. Give me a new one.” Maomao had to hold herself back from throwing stones at him; she saw officials arrest him.
Maomao wanted Meimei to find happiness. But, the courtesan will be going to a place where she couldn’t declare that with utmost certainty.
Meimei seemed to have noticed that Maomao’s expression had become slightly melancholic. Though her face doesn’t really change much, people will know when they see it.
“Come on. It’s probably, not that bad. If it’s bad, the madam would have seen through it,” Meimei said, and ruffled Maomao’s head. The madam’s inspection is strict. The talks won’t go strange, and it’s not like it’s urgent.
“By the way, where’s the pipsqueak?” Meimei changed the topic.
“I don’t know about Chou’u. Ukyou or Sazen is probably watching him.”
“Is that so? I wanted him to draw me something.”
“P-rn?” (T/N: idk if this word is censored on this site, so just in case ;D)
Meimei pinched Maomao’s cheek with a smile. Ah crap, this type of joke is for Pairin-neechan.
Maomao rubbed her reddened cheeks. “I thought everyone was going to get tired of it soon, but it’s been going on for an unexpectantly long time.” She thought that Chou’u drawing portraits of courtesans and manservants and selling them to earn money was peculiar.
“…my, that child is a big deal. Here.”
Meimei went out of the pharmacy and came back carrying something from the back of the clerk desk. It was a fan made from bamboo frames. It was pasted on with high-quality paper that had a painting of a cat playing with a ball.
Could maomao be the model – the figure of the playful calico cat was drawn with few lines but was strangely lively.
“When I thought that the guests for portraits were decreasing, he came out with this. There are many courtesans who like cats. I thought he was clinging to maomao for the entire day, then he drew such a thing.”
What a crafty kid.
Moreover, the paper on this fan was new despite the age of the frames. It seems it was repapered with what the quack’s hometown had sent over. The old fan looked like it was remade – in other words, he got it for peanuts.
He really is crafty.
However, it was said that children grow quickly, but as far as she could see with the painting on the fan, she felt Chou’u’s artistic skills had gone up quite a bit. She felt his drawings before were more of putting down exactly what he saw.
“That reminds me,” Meimei said. “That child seems to be studying under an artist.”
Maomao knitted her brows. “…first time I’ve heard about it, that.”
“It was when you went on a long journey to the West. A large patron customer brought him over. Said that he’s an up-and-coming artist.”
It’s a common story. It wasn’t unusual for the wealthy to buy paintings and ceramics as a hobby. And they cut off the artists who create what they like when they are unsatisfied with it. It’s a refined hobby people who have money in excess can do.
“But there’s more,” she added. “He was introduced to Joga.”
This is one of the Three Princesses of Rokushoukan, a great man hater while being a courtesan. She holds conversations on poems and civil examinations with officials and students, but paintings were a little removed from Joga’s interests.
“Moreover, wasn’t that artist said to be good at drawing beauties?” Meimei laughed and clapped her hands, the melancholic expression she had just then suddenly changed.
“Joga-nee, could she be furious?” Maomao asked.
“Yeah, she’s furious. So furious she scribbled poems. A foolish new courtesan copied that completely and sent it to a guest, so it’s going to be a wild ride after this.”
Joga is talented in writing poetry. But you need to be careful about the things she writes when she’s in a fit of anger. The words look beautiful at a glance, but it’s chockful of poison. She cannot be allowed to write letters requested by guests when she is angry. In those times, the madam inspects the letters before she sends them.
The amorous Pairin is a problem, but conversely, Joga is also one.
Before she knew it, maomao had drawn close to Meimei’s feet. It raised a wheedling cry, begging for treats.
Meimei held it up and placed it on her knee. She stroked its chin.
“And so, is Chou’u studying under that artist?” Maomao asked.
“Yeah. It seems Joga really wanted to send him lots of hate letters so she had Chou’u do the runs.”
It seems the large patron really wanted to have a portrait of Joga drawn up. The artist wanted to draw a simple sketch at the place then draw up a clean copy for the large patron later, but Joga isn’t nice enough to give him a full look of her face without an introduction.
She was told the large patron and the artist unrelentingly wrote down the address, asking her to get in touch.
Normally, a letter would be given to kamuro, who, accompanied by manservants, would deliver them to guests. Of course, there was no way they can take hate letters, so Joga called for Chou’u to deliver them.
It was fine that Chou’u went to deliver the letter, but he took a liking to the artist’s paintings and started to hang out there.
“He might be there today too,” Meimei said.
“I told him that he can’t go outside already.”
Maomao wanted to tell Chou’u to try put himself into his minder’s shoes.
If something were to happen, it would be most certainly troubling to deal with it.
And then, in that case,
She heard Ukyou call out.
Maomao got up, stepped over maomao that was showing its belly begging for treats and looked towards the voice. “What is it?”
Ukyou looked somewhat harried. “No, it’s Chou’u.”
“Did he do something again?” Maomao frowned, saying I told you so.
“About that, can you come with for now?”
Ukyou pulled her hand.
“His acquaintance looks like he’s going to die,” he said.