Volume 6: Sha’ou
“Long time no see.”
“Long time no see.”
The person standing before Maomao echoed her words back at her.
It was Gaoshun, the original healing-type military official. He had shown up while she was lackadaisically making medicine in her pharmacy in the pleasure district. It really had been a long time. She felt like it had been more than half-a-year since she last saw him.
“Well, my foolish son was supposed to come but he got injured the other day doing something stupid.”
So, Gaoshun was here instead.
For that Basen to be greatly injured, it must have been really bad.
“How did he get hurt?” she asked.
“Well, he went to escort Consort Riishu, but it seems he was strangely unsteady on his feet on the way back. When he was getting onto his horse, he heard a loud sound, which scared the horse. He got bucked off and trampled on.”
“…that’s quite a joke.”
You would certainly get gravely wounded if a horse steps on you. It wouldn’t be strange if you die either.
“He’s in a condition where it wouldn’t be weird to have his innards ruptured, but the fact that he’s quite sturdy is a strong point of his, at least.”
“I see,” Maomao nodded as she opened a drawer. There should be some tea cakes in here.
“Shaomao, you don’t have to.”
“Is that so? It’s steamed bun from the main street that’s gone by noon.”
A courtesan from Rokushoukan had given it to her. It seemed the courtesan was going to give them to the kamuro, but she didn’t have enough so it’ll turn into a fight. There was brown sugar mixed into the steamed dough; its feature was its tart sweetness.
“…thanks for the food.”
Gaoshun looked like a stern warrior, but he had quite a weakness for sweet stuff.
Maomao prepared tea that went well with the steamed buns. She cooled the tea she brewed this morning with well water. It’s the greatest luxury to bring out chilled drinks in this hot season. Though these were for the guests of honour, when she mentioned Gaoshun’s name, the madam gave it out without reserve.
Gaoshun was eating the steamed bun with a slight smile on his lips, but what was he here for? It wasn’t like him to be here to chat. When Maomao studied him intently, Gaoshun stuffed his cheeks with the steam buns in a fluster and washed it down with tea.
“Umm, shall I move on to the main topic?” he said.
“I have one more. Here you go.”
Maomao presented him her share of the steam buns. She wanted wine more than sweet food. The thoughtful Gaoshun, if he came over a little while later, would probably come back with good wine in exchange for the steamed buns. And above all, she didn’t want to hear about the main topic.
After eating up one more steamed bun, Gaoshun cleared his throat. “Shaomao, have you no plans of becoming a court physician?”
“I can’t become one, right?”
Women cannot become court physicians. That was the law of this country.
“I phrased it wrong. Have you no plan for becoming someone who has the same power as a court physician?”
Same power as a court physician – in short, using as much of the medicine in that room as she liked. Her lips, which should be a straight line, trembled. Gaoshun’s eyes shone.
“You can also try new medicines. There are also a lot of people you can try it on.”
Her cheeks twitched. The corner of her lips was starting to rise.
(No, I can’t. It’s suspicious. Really suspicious.)
It sounded too good to be true. Moreover, it was Gaoshun who came bearing the news. It was not necessarily tasty.
Besides, there was also this pharmacy to consider. Though she had an apprentice, he would probably complain if she went away. He was still far away from becoming fully fledged.
(Alright. I should decline…)
But well, it didn’t turn out as she expected. Gaoshun had made the first move.
And speaking of what.
“Are you aware of the emissary who came from the West?”
Maomao searched her memories. West–in other words, it should be about Sha’ou. She didn’t know anyone from Sha’ou, but it would have to be the woman she met up with the number fool Rahan some time ago.
The woman had forced an unreasonable demand on Rahan, whether it was the issue of food supply or defection from her country; she had quite some guts.
What did she say her name was? Maomao remembered that she was a tall beauty with blonde hair and blue eyes. In regards to the food supply issue, the great key was whether the sweet potato will turn out well.
“The woman is called Irene. She came in as a new middle-ranking consort the other day.”
Maomao let out a stupid sound. She had thought that the woman had a determined personality, but she indeed was determined. Certainly, it might be the case that the inner palace was safe in a way. If you consider the internal quarrels.
Gaoshun continued. “Of course, she has one or two peculiarities. Since she’s a foreigner, the stares of the consorts and palace ladies in the inner palace are also intense. Moreover, she didn’t bring along any kind of maidservant with her from Sha’ou.”
Certainly, considering her position, that was probably appropriate, but it would appear to be somewhat pitiful.
“And I’ll be there?” Maomao asked.
It would be easy to enter the inner palace if she had the same ranking as a court physician.
“We wanted to have you come in as a maid at first.” Gaoshun’s expression was complicated.
Somehow or other, Maomao had been working as Consort, no, Empress Gyokuyou’s food taster up until last year. Although she had declined and was decreed to return to town – to the pleasure district -there would be a lot of problems if she were to become a maid to a consort from somewhere else. Empress Gyokuyou might end up being contrary.
“You can meet Empress Gyokuyou as an assistant with the same authority as a court physician. That lady was extremely delighted when we talked about that,” he said.
“I haven’t given my agreement yet, though,” she said.
And if he had already announced it to Empress Gyokuyou…
“Yes, I’m here to deliver a letter of recommendation from the empress.”
Gaoshun took out the letter with an innocent look.
“I have also received one from Jinshi-sama.”
Gaoshun added another to the stack.
“And, from His Majesty as well.”
“Why…” Maomao was taken aback by the last letter.
The wrinkles on his brows deep, Gaoshun slowly closed his eyes.
“Before, you took the exam to be qualified to work as a court lady in the imperial court, right?”
“I failed though.”
Once, Maomao had worked directly for Jinshi. That time, she was told to become a court lady and was forced to a huge volume of reference books.
“Yeah, I thought you would pass easily. You are that much passionate about medicines and poisons, and your memory is also good.”
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.”
It wasn’t the case that Maomao was more outstanding than other people. She only erased the things that were a given to other people, and made use of that part for her field of interest.
“It’s not that Shaomao can’t learn what you’re not interested in. It’s just hard to learn, right? In actual fact, you have learnt the manners of the pleasure district from start to finish.”
“That’s something that couldn’t be helped.”
The madam, even though she’s already a mummy, was still spirited. If Maomao didn’t learn, she would be punished, she won’t even get food. Ruomen might have taken her under his wing, but there was no way her frail dad could win against the madam.
And thus, in order to survive, while getting help from her older sisters, she somehow learnt the manners of the pleasure district.
“In other words, you’ll learn it if there’s a need for it. You didn’t feel like studying properly before even though Jinshi-sama had ordered you before.”
There were three letters.
Jinshi, Empress Gyokuyou, His Majesty.
Even if they were informal, even as a joke, the three names of the people who cannot be opposed in this country were glaring menacingly back at her.
“I’ll have you pass by any means possible,” Gaoshun said.
“E-even if you say that.”
Gaoshun pushed the pharmacy doors wide open. As if he had left it outside, he picked up a large cloth bag and dropped it in front of her.
“By any means possible,” he repeated.
For some reason, the madam was standing behind Gaoshun with a punishment cane in hand. Maomao could see a money bag in the crone’s bosom. Turns out the old woman had already been bribed.
(She’s been taken in!)
“I want to have you pass this time by any means possible,” Gaoshun declared to Maomao.
T/N: RIP Maomao.
Anyways, break time. Back in two weeks. See you guys then o/
(This chapter is for the kind sir who bought me coffee. Thank you very much for your donation *bows*)
That said, as usual, thanks for reading. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you guys <3