Volume 5, Chapter 7: The Deal and the Use of the Cat

As expected, Lady Pai did not just disappear into thin air.

Maomao saw her as an artist. Though, it seems that a fraction of people saw her as something else.
As a figure of worship – a religion, so to speak.

And a fraction of these people are fanatics who got too absorbed.
Uryuu’s daughter, whose name appears to be Yakou(夜光, Ye Guang), looks like one of those types.

This woman, who got a deep impression from watching Lady Pai on the stage, had tried to get in contact with the Lady. As a result, it seems the Lady had performed a divination for Yakou.

“You have someone by your side who will become a calamity. This could be a neighbour or a blood relative. Yes, it seems to be a blood relative. Do you have a clue as to who that could be?”

The Lady spoke so vaguely; she must have been examining the daughter’s complexion with it. She gave several options, then continued the conversation by choosing the words that elicited a reaction. It was a technique oft-used by swindlers as well.

Yakou, being the daughter of the former concubine, might have had some thoughts. At home, she treated her half-sister as inferior. She said that she had been scared of the worst case, where Consort Riishu would become pregnant with the emperor’s child.
Her persecution complex quickly grew. And the one who nurtured it was Lady Pai. It was a common story.

And so, Yakou mentioned her own sister. And that she had uttered thus:

“Aah, it would be better if she’s gone.”

Lady Pai had smiled at Yakou who whispered that, answering with “I understand”. The thing the Lady handed over after saying that, was the paper doll.

(How dicey.)

If the daughter was one who believed in divination, she would also believe in curses. After that, when she came to know about Consort Riishu’s assault, she thought that her curse had been successful.

And then, when she got distrust from Jinshi. And when she was believed to have tried attempting something to the consort, even though Consort Riishu is her half-sister.

(Is she a moron?)

Lady Pai had hidden herself, but she could give word if there was anything. And so, Yakou, who then informed Lady Pai of what she had been suspected of, received a letter.

How she could escape – that was what had been detailed in the writing.
It seems it was written that the Lady would look after the daughter after she left the estate as a mourner.

It was Yakou’s older brother who had been the most slumped when he heard about the details.

“…didn’t you employ the thugs yourself?” he asked.

The older brother, who thought that the family will be punished along with his younger sister due to Consort Riishu’s assault, had collaborated with his younger sister’s words. The one who arranged for the mourners was also the older brother.
As for Uryuu, he said nothing from start to finish. If he believed the words of Yakou and her older brother, the collaborators in the family were not just two people, but could the fact that he had erroneously determined the body as his daughter, be a mere mistake, or something of suspect?

In order to hide away from Uryuu and the others who had finished their medical treatment, Maomao returned to the corner of the room once again. She paid no heed to the daughter’s glances.

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Well then, if the curse will lead to punishment, Yakou’s crimes would be heavy, but that will depend on the judge’s end as well. Unfortunately, neither the emperor nor Jinshi believed in curses to such an extent. They will simply read that as ill-intent, but it will be difficult to treat it as if it was implemented.

The issue for that would be—.

“Everything about the consort, huh,” Jinshi said.

It would have to be about the connection with Lady Pai on whether the question of confidentiality still exists.

In the face of Jinshi’s questioning about that point, the one who opened his mouth was Uryuu.

“How did you communicate with her?” The father asked his daughter. He didn’t enunciate properly due to the gap in his teeth.

“That…. I was told to tell no one.”

“In that case, all of us will be punished.”

Hearing the words punished, Yakou shivered. “But, the lady fairy said I must not tell.”

“Have you forgotten about the Shi Clan?”

Yakou trembled in fright. Her brother also turned green.

Jinshi made a bitter expression. A different subordinate was standing expressionlessly behind him on the side. Not Basen – that man will surely be chastised by Gaoshun after this.

Well then, she had heard before that the man called Uryuu was a person who excelled in business, but he was made to demonstrate his speciality here.

Uryuu stroked his own misshapen cheek.

Bringing up the name of the Shi Clan – what could he be planning with that?

“It appears that the information of this Lady Pai person is still lacking.”

What about it? Jinshi gave a chilly expression, but he must be smiling wryly inside.

“Yakou. You’ll speak?”

“B-but, Father.”

“You’ll speak.”

At her father’s declarative tone, Yakou could only nod.

Jinshi slipped his hands into his sleeves and sent Uryuu a slightly overbearing gaze. “With your daughter’s information, we can render everything as naught.”

In other words, it seems he had proposed that thing called plea bargaining.

Uryuu had a fathomless smile set on his warped face. Rather than an official, it was the face of a merchant. “Yes, I understand. Just one thing I wish to clarify, however.”

“What is it?”

“I heard that Consort Rifa’s head maid left the inner palace last year. What was the reason for it?”

Hitting it where it hurts. That incident had been dealt with off the record, but it turns out to be something suspicious for those sharp-sighted people. As Consort Rifa herself had requested it, the person who had committed a serious crime had been let off with a dismissal.

In regards to Consort Riishu’s half-sister, it would be a different matter if the consort sought punishment, but considering her personality, that wouldn’t happen.

Jinshi’s eyes quickly chilled. “Does this have any relation to this?”

“No, my sincerest apologies. I said too much.” Uryuu smoothly retreated.
His son and daughter were stricken with terror from Jinshi’s icy expression.

The man called Uryuu was mentioned here and there in the imperial court, but it seems he happened to also have inexplicable shrewdness.

“Talk about the incident with the white woman without covering anything up. It’ll become troubling if you try to hide anything.”

“By your will.” Uryuu bowed.
His children copied him as they trembled, then retired from the room.

“You people leave too,” Jinshi said to the remaining subordinates. They left with sour expressions.

“Oi. Come out.” When there was no one else left in the room, he finally called Maomao out. She slipped out from the corner of the room.

“You’re more a mouse than a cat,” he remarked.

“I’m neither a cat nor a mouse.”

Jinshi displayed a look of exhaustion and laid his face on the table. He threw out his legs. His posture was slovenly.

“That posture, you haven’t been disciplined. I’ll have to call Gaoshun-sama,” she said.

“If you’re talking about Gaoshun, he will be coming to hit Basen sooner or later,” Jinshi said, and gestured for Maomao to sit on the chair on the other side of the table. Maomao did as she was told. Unlike before, there was a lazy atmosphere. She thought there was no one around, but she controlled the volume of her voice.

“I’m sorry for Gaoshun-sama, but didn’t he help out this time?”

Speaking of what he helped out for, it was the incident with U Clan. Basen going on a rampage like that could only be seen as a foolish move. However, with the gains changed from this incident, it could be perceived as perfect.

Since, someway or another, the judgement Jinshi handed down to the U Clan became generous.

“From the start, his majesty did not wish for punishment. Moreover, Mother probably would not approve.”

She felt that it was the first time she heard of Jinshi talk about his mother. She thought that he was talking about the empress dowager, but it felt somewhat weird.

“She had been aggrieved from the Shi Clan incident. She had pleaded his majesty to reduce the penalty to the very end.”

No matter how the empress dowager insisted, it was impossible. If they were to sit irresponsible emotions into this, another fire will start elsewhere and the damage could be amplified.
Of course, fires are something that you think you can defend against but are not, though.

The U Clan wouldn’t be able to take a large punishment officially. However, since they had held such a large funeral, they can’t say that their daughter is alive after all this time now.

(What are they going to do now?)

The daughter seems to be brought up quite lovingly, unlike Consort Riishu, but how she is going to live from now on is a mystery.

(She’s reaping what she sowed though.)

Whether she is going to continuing living in secret in the estate, or going to live quietly in a distant place was something that wasn’t related to Maomao.

In the groggy atmosphere, Maomao unwittingly wanted to yawn. It was quite sunny outside so it looks to be quite comfortable if she took a nap in the garden. And so, she wanted to leave the room as soon as possible, but Jinshi was face down on the table, unmoving.

(Could he be asleep?)

When she prodded him to check, he raised his face.

“Did you prod me just now?”

“What are you talking about? That aside, isn’t it time I got back?”

As Maomao’s question, Jinshi narrowed his eyes back at her.

“It’s fine to stay a bit longer,” he said.

“There’s nothing much to talk about.”

(Why are you looking at me with such eyes?)

Jinshi had the annoying expression of a brat. “Don’t you have anything?”

“What substantial thing is there to talk about?”

She wanted him to stop it with telling her to do the impossible by talking about something interesting. It was too difficult for Maomao who always slips up with stock phrases from the pleasure district.

“There should be. Something like the weather and such. Or something like what you’ve been up to lately.”

“Today’s weather is sunny. The humidity is also dry, so it seems to be perfect for washing. About what I’ve done lately, it’s procuring and compounding the medicine stock that has gotten low since my absence. And then there’s Chou’u’s discipline. His pranks have gotten overboard so I would like to request an increase in child-rearing expenses. If you can, have that money come to me directly rather than through the Rokushoukan. And I wonder if it’s possible to be paid by imported medicines rather than money?”

“Isn’t this a business communication? Also, about the child-rearing expenses, Gaoshun mentioned that it was quite overcharged.”

(Is that so?)

Since most of the money is snatched away by the madam before it comes to Maomao, she had no idea how much she got in the first place. She always thought that she gets three times the amount Maomao gets given, but it looks like she got more than that. What a greedy hag.

“….” Jinshi, shouldered slumped, glanced at Maomao. “How can you interact with me like normal?”

“Even if you ask how.”

Which reminded her, it’s been a while since she spoke to Jinshi properly. Up until then, there was the trouble with the U Clan where she got an explanation about the incident but.

It was since they had spoken in the pharmacy before she left for the West.

And speaking of what happened at that time —.

“I’m not bothered by it so Jinshi-sama can take your mind off it.”

“…be bothered.” Jinshi’s eyes moistened. “No. Isn’t there more to that?”

“Not really. Ah. Thank you very much for the velvet antler.” Maomao remembered and thanked him insincerely. “I have sliced them up and compounded them as soon as I could. As expected of its name as a miracle drug, its effectiveness is marvellous. I have given a packet to a number of honoured guests, but it sold very well as the word spread from that. I’ve also raised the price. Nonetheless there seems to a lot of gentlemen who want to be vigorous, so there are those who said that they will pay no matter how much it is, you know. Is it possible for you to tell me the channel you obtained the velvet antlers?”

“No, what effect are you on about? Rather, just then you were way more talkative than usual, huh!”

Did he order them because they were unusual while not even knowing about its effect? In that case, she decided the portion she left for Jinshi was unneeded. Let’s sell it.

“No, that’s not what I’m talking about!” Jinshi raised his chin. His ears were a little red.

“Are you…not even… embarrassed before the one who k-kissed you?” Jinshi said with a little stammer.

“Even if you say that, if you get bothered by that all the time you can’t work.”

It’s a common sight in the pleasure district.
Rather, it’s because it’s a place where people do what bugs do when they mate.

“Work, you say….”

“If I get shy towards Consort Rifa, I won’t be able to do my work, right?”

“What does Consort Rifa have to do with this?” Jinshi looked at her with a look of heartfelt marvel.

“Didn’t Consort Rifa not eat properly when she was sick?”

Moreover, she didn’t even try to put food in her mouth herself. Maomao had to take tough measures for the women then.

About what measures she took – Jinshi, who guessed it, slapped the table. “O-oi! Consort Rifa is a woman!”

“It’s because she’s a consort. It’ll be problematic if she’s a gentleman, right?”

“No, that’s not what I meant!”

She understood what he was trying to say, but Maomao was also desperate then. Rather, if Consort Rifa were to pass away, Maomao thought that her head will be separated from her body as well. Even if she had to chase out the people in the way who had kicked themselves in away from the room as the maids were shouting around her, she needed to feed the consort.

“Since she recovered because of that, I’m glad.”

“…”

Consort Rifa is embracing a new imperial prince. Could she have imagined that from the circumstances then?
Maomao believed the things she did was not wrong.

Jinshi slumped his face down again. As his face was lowered, he gestured for Maomao to come towards him.

“Do you want to kiss?” she asked.

“That’s totally not what I mean!” Jinshi said as he gently hugged her. He did nothing else. He simply hugged her.

Occasionally, the man resembles the shitty brat when he comes to fawn on her. Chou’u’s memories have yet to return, but it appears that he knows that he lost something big. He has been hugging that distasteful ball of fur called maomao or something to sleep a lot lately, so he could be stemming that feeling away with that. It seems it has some use.

Does Jinshi want to be pampered like a ten year old child again or something?

“Will it be over soon?” she asked.

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“Wait a hundred counts more.”

(That’s quite long.)

Her posture was a little strained with his body weight, but let’s endure.

“One, two, three…”

“Stop counting.”

(What a pain.)

Maomao waited patiently as she wondered if she could push the ball of fur onto Jinshi.

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