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There wasn’t any twist to the sweets they got Airin this time. It only contained a written note saying that they will be waiting at the eating house near the lodgings. Seeing how the three of them got the same message, it seems they all needed to pass together.
She headed to the appointed place with the two who were looking like they had been done in.
There were many high-end shops at the north side of the capital. The shop that they were called to was yet another one of those high-end restaurants(酒楼). There were a lot of bureaucrats and hence would also have reserved rooms prepared.
“We’re so out of place, aren’t we?”
A winehouse(酒楼, lit. wine house, but basically a fancy restaurant originating from Southern China (Cantonese) that typically serves banquets), as its name suggests, is a shop that serves wine. The tall building was extravagant, and although Yao had her wares, it wasn’t something familiar for someone who was still a sixteen-year-old maiden.
It wasn’t a place for the three women to drop by to.
There were mostly males inside; females, if you exclude the waitresses, were hardly seen. It was common sense to think that this wasn’t a place for them to drop by. Although, for Maomao who was used to drinking places from the pleasure district as well, the chilly stares around her were of no matter. This place was only better in the way it didn’t have drunks with impaired judgement.
A waitress with polished makeup came up to them. “How may I help you?”
They didn’t look like customers. There was also the possibility that they might have been mistaken as job applicants.
“We are western guests,” Maomao recited what the note had said.
The waitress, as if she understood, guided them inside.
As soon as they entered the room they were led to, Maomao was met with extreme fatigue from the tension.
“Yo.” A short man wearing round glasses with unruly hair was drinking fruit wine. No, rather than wine, it might be juice instead.
The weirdo tactician’s nephew, his adopted son, Rahan was there. There was one other man, but as he was an escort Rahan had brought along, it should probably be fine to ignore him since he won’t be speaking at all.
“It’s good that you arrived soundly. I was wondering what I should do if you didn’t come,” he said.
“We’re leaving.” Maomao turned around, and En’en gripped onto her arm.
“Why are we leaving? Or rather, do you know him?” Yao looked back and forth between Maomao and Rahan with a question mark on her head.
“Maomao-san is Grand Marshal Kan’s daughter,” En’en said.
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That was the weirdo tactician’s formal title.
“We’re strangers,” Maomao replied like she usually did.
“Oh, you know a lot,” Rahan said in awe.
En’en replied with a look saying that it was nothing. “Wouldn’t you want to investigate when he shows his face every time to such an extent? A portion seemed to have taken it as tacit understanding.”
(That bloody weirdo.)
Maomao mentally cursed him. He does nothing but good for nothing stuff for the most part.
“And this person,” En’en said, “is Grand Marshal Kan’s son.”
Yao reacted to En’en’s words. “Older brother?”
“That’s right,” Rahan said.
“No way,” Maomao said.
“Which one is it?”
I’ll need to win over Yao here at least, Maomao thought.
However, Yao was glaring at Maomao. “So, does that mean that your relatives were in on it from the start?”
Looks like she got a misunderstanding from a different side. It is certainly true if it was known that the ringleader was someone she knew, it would be understandable to think that way.
“It’s not true.” The one who denied it was Rahan. “We don’t want any person who can’t solve this level of puzzles here, even if they are relatives. I mean, sending in useless people would just increase the amount of trouble,” the round glasses said, squinting his eyes further. He wasn’t covering for Maomao, this was Rahan’s true feelings. The cunning one who betrayed his family and chased them from the house—that was Rahan.
En’en twisted her lips slightly. It looked like a smile, but it felt like it was laced with sarcasm. She might have heard from rumours about the kind of person Rahan was. Compared to Yao who was tilting her head, the woman was quite worldly.
(Rather, she might not match with her master if she wasn’t worldly.)
There was no mistaking with human resources.
“Why are we standing around talking? Why don’t we talk slowly as we eat?” Maomao took a seat with a look of displeasure. In terms of position, it should be Rahan’s treat. Let’s order as many expensive dishes as possible.
Rahan had said it flippantly, but the topic was quite bothersome. There was a reason he specifically chose an important store that purveyed to the government for this. The subject was confidential.
In simple terms, Rahan had a hand in Airin’s entry to the inner palace. The reason was that Airin’s political rival had tried to seize power and that she felt that her life was in danger.
The request for importations of food supply can be said, in a certain meaning, to be a means to create a lifeline. During times of famine, the seizing of food is great. And that she had tried to oppose that.
“And they even disregarded that,” he said.
It’s awkward when you consider the citizens, but it’s meaningless if you get assassinated first. And so, she had decided to enter the inner palace of the emperor of this country, Rii. Officially, it wasn’t seen as a defection, but rather, a way to tie a connection to the other country.
Maomao tilted her head.
“You have a question?” Rahan asked.
“No, I was thinking that there’s a lot of Sha’ou women in this,” she replied.
It was unthinkable in this country. The inner palace aside, the position of women outside would never be higher than men. Even becoming a court lady is considered a part of training for homemaking.
Certainly, it might be important as a tool for political marriage, but they probably wouldn’t be able to meddle as much as Airin did.
“Do you not even know about this?”
Unusually, Yao lifted her nose in a proud snigger. Apparently, she was happy that she knew something that Maomao didn’t, and that she had no other choice than to explain it to her. This maiden’s personality was gradually getting adorable.
“The country called Sha’ou is made up of two pillars. One is the king. And the other is the priestess,” Yao said.
Maomao had heard a little about the priestess. That was the one who directed this and that with divination.
“It’s the king who holds the final say in the government, but recently the state of affairs have been different.”
Normally they don’t stay in power for more than ten odd years. The reason being that priestesses were young girls who have yet to get their first period, and occasionally were those who can be called infants.
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So to speak, they exist as a symbol or an idol.
“But the current priestess has already passed forty. If she were to be older than the king, she would be meddling in parts where she normally shouldn’t be meddling. Moreover, from that, women would also get more power to have a say in politics.”
“I see.” Maomao had already known about some of these, but she understood it once again.
(Passed forties and still haven’t got her first period, huh.)
Maomao got curious about that. It’s rare, but apparently, there are stories. Several reasons exist. Occasionally, it could be due to them being intersex. She had no idea what those people feel about it, but Maomao was very interested in it to an inhumane extent.
“Are there no similar examples in the past?” she asked.
“That is connected to the main topic, so allow me to explain,” Rahan said, as he picked up a thin slice of pig’s ear. “Apparently, there are several similar cases in the past. However, even if what should come didn’t come, it would be transferred to the next generation in twenty years.”
It would be better politically and symbolically as well.
“Then why is the current priestess still in power?” she asked.
“The current priestess is special.” He took about a sheet of paper from his breast pocket. It looked like a drawing of a beauty, but the hair was painted in a light colour. “The current priestess is probably an albino. There are several conditions on the choosing of a priestess, and among that, white children are the most sacred.”
A rare albino even among priestesses. It was said that she ignored custom and was still in power.
“….” And with this, Maomao finally came to an understanding.
“Do you want to know the real identity of the white maiden?”
The western white beauty the painter of beauties had seen. That beauty could be the priestess; didn’t it match perfectly in terms of age?
It was said that albinos lack something to create the colour they should normally have. If there are cases where a white baby could be suddenly born, it is also true that they could be born through family lineages. It was the case in Rii, so it should also be extremely rare in Sha’ou.
Does Lady Pai also have some relation to this?
“That priestess is now retired in illness. And so, she will be coming to rely on the doctors of this country, but apparently the priestess cannot be touched by males, even if they were a former eunuch,” Rahan said.
“And that’s why you have the court ladies that will be assisting the court physicians,” Maomao said.
“Yeah. Just the place in itself, she has to make a long journey, and above all, it has also developed into an international problem. We require talents who are quite capable of coping with the moment.”
Was this the reason for the rather peculiar selection?
“And what about the possibility where no one can take it up?” En’en said.
“In that case, we’ll go to someone else. As a last resort,” Rahan answered.
What kind of person could that be? Maomao thought, and suddenly recalled the beauty who looked good in male clothes. If it’s Suirei, leaving out where she was descended from, she might be the best person for the job. She’s all but a prisoner—could that be why they wanted to avoid her?
“According to the story, could Consort Airin bearing in mind about the priestess’ illness be from a diversion by her so-called political opponent?”
“Could she be mistaken on the whole, I wonder.”
It was a vague manner of speaking. Certainly, what Rahan said had no contradictions. There weren’t any but Maomao was strangely caught up on it.
Good lies are skilfully mixed with truth. In Rahan’s case, he didn’t lie, but he didn’t say the truth either, she felt.
It was inconceivable for ‘the white maiden‘ to be the priestess who was over her forties.
(Do I ask a leading question here?)
No, if she did something careless, Yao aside, there was the chance that En’en would notice it.
Maomao decided to keep her mouth shut for the time being.
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