It was the height of summer, the moment when there was still some time until the first whiff of spring came around. The capital was brimming with a festive atmosphere. The economy cycles when there are people coming in from other countries. As a result, social gatherings would naturally increase, turning into festivals.
Maomao didn’t hate festivals. One way or other, it made her surroundings lively. This was also apparent in the imperial court.
And speaking of how it was expressed…
That was the phrase a sour-faced court physician uttered when a ghastly pale civil official was carried in. There were bags under the official’s eyes and he was staring into space.
“Take proper sleep. You’ll die, literally.”
Sleep is important. You can make a fuss saying that it’s fine to not sleep for one or two days, but it’s not unusual to suddenly drop dead when you’re older. There was a period of time where Jinshi didn’t sleep to quite a dangerous degree.
You need the government’s permission to open a shop in the capital. There were not few that take it upon themselves to open a street stall, but if you want a proper large shop set up, permission was required on the basis of tax. If you get caught, to say nothing of a fine, you can also get jailed.
People come together before a festival. As more foreign people come over, there will be more trade goods than before, and there won’t be a few people who settle down in the capital with that in mind as well.
Thanks to that, the civil official had spent all his time going through documents.
It didn’t mean that the military officials weren’t busy either. Thanks to that, she was grateful that the weirdo tactician had been showing up less often recently.
With the influx of people, public order will also worsen. It was the military officials’ job to control that. Unfortunately, compared to civil officials, military officials can swap their training times for work and are, to say it succinctly, muscle-brains, so none have fainted.
However, there are more injured people.
“OWW! Can’t you be a tad more gentle!”
Yao was smearing ointment onto a military official’s arm. The cut was a red line around three sun(~3cm) long.
(Even though it’s only skin deep.)
It appears that someone had wilfully started a street stall, and was even selling questionable medicines. When this official had tried to crack down on it, they went crazy and apparently took out a bladed weapon.
“Excuse me,” Yao replied without a change in tone, but her lips were slightly puckered. Rather than anger, it looked like she was holding in her tears.
En’en went to help such a master. She presented the official some cooled tea, saying that it was a painkiller, but that had to be normal brewed coarse tea.
There still weren’t many court physicians who would entrust the patients to the court ladies, but apparently, they were appreciative of En’en’s attentiveness. The complaints towards court physicians seemed to have decreased.
And speaking of what Maomao was doing…
She was making medicine.
You can make simple salves at least, they said and left it to her. It wasn’t bad if she held back on her desire to make medicines that were more peculiar. It was probably just perfect for Maomao who fell behind the other two in terms of her appearance, where it wasn’t fit for dealing with customers.
“Maomao, the salve,” En’en said.
Since the aforementioned baked treats incident, En’en was speaking a lot more affably. Although, Yao puffed her cheeks a little when she saw En’en’s attitude. There were times Maomao thought that En’en was doing this to make her master act like a child.
“The salve, right?” Maomao, as she was going to pass the salve over, glanced at the injured person. It was the military official who had been yelling out before. He was noisy even though his injury wasn’t major.
“…” Maomao snuck out the salve she was carrying in her bosom and switched it with what she was supposed to hand over.
If he is that energetic, he should be fine to experiment on with the new salve, she thought, but…
“Oi, what are you doing?”
The voice that called out from behind her scared Maomao. She turned back. A court physician was narrowing his eyes at her.
“Did you switch the medicine just now?” he asked.
“What are you talking about?” Maomao played dumb, but the court physician snatched away the medicine she was going to hand over. The court physician, his eyes squinted, checked the salve with his fingertips.
“Oi, you added something different to this, didn’t you?”
“What are you talking about?” She kept playing dumb. A fist dropped onto Maomao’s head.
“Ruomen told me to tell you off harshly.”
With him being an acquaintance to her dad, it got hard to act.
“What did you put inside?” he asked.
“A little bit of frog.” She had tried it out, hearing that frog oil was good. In truth, she couldn’t extract much oil from the frogs, so all she got, in the end, was what she had carried over now. “I heard that frog oil is used as medicine in other countries.”
“You say that, but I’ve never heard of that before.”
It’s true, Maomao had never heard about it either. She just tried it out in case there was some effect. She had chosen frogs that had no poison and studied it on her own body for any disasters. Of course, she wasn’t that inhumane to test out things she had no idea if it had poison or not.
“I’m confiscating this for now,” he said.
It got taken away. She had even taken the time to go out into the paddy fields to find some during her holiday.
“You… frogs…” Yao looked at her, pale-faced. She looked like she was in disbelief. “What were you thinking to put something like that in medicine!”
Maomao ignored her, picking an ear. Apparently, her manners were bad, as En’en poked her elbow.
“I don’t think that this has any relation to Yao-san, but it’s an extremely common food for commoners,” Maomao said.
Yao made another look of disbelief. She looked searchingly at En’en for her opinion.
“Yes. It is eaten very commonly. Occasionally, snake fillets are also sold to imitate fish,” En’en replied.
Hearing the word snake, Yao’s face paled.
“Rest assured. There is nothing uncertain in Yao-sama’s food,” En’en said.
“Snake is also not half bad,” Maomao added. It’s a bit annoying that it has a lot of small bones, but it’s not a problem when fried. If you are bothered by the stink, you can get rid of it with herbs and spices.
Maomao had brought dried snake as a replacement for dim sum for times when she gets peckish. When she offered Yao some to eat, the court lady leaned against the wall and feebly turned it down.
She returned it to her bosom helplessly.
“Oi, you people, stop slacking!”
Told off by the court physician, they stopped chatting and went back on with work.
Maomao and the others ate lunch in the dining hall. Meals were served, but as the serving sizes were small, there were many who bring extras with them.
Officials and court ladies ate in separate places. Yao was normally cold towards Maomao, but during these times, she always stuck to her a little closer.
The reason was the atmosphere around them.
This was felt in both inner palace and the pleasure district; women have a true nature that can only be seen by women. Gossip and vulgar conversations fly in the dining hall that was away from men’s eyes.
“You know, military officials are indeed no good. They don’t get much for how busy they get. Since they eat so much, food expenses are nothing insignificant, so they don’t even treat you to meals properly.”
“Uwah, that’s the worst. But then, it’s not like civil officials are any better. It’s good that I got asked out the other day but. By the window. Seriously. By a guy who only has rows of dusty books and no luck with promotion. It’s a good thing that he gave me a kanzashi, but it’s so old-fashioned I’m sick of it.”
“Isn’t it still better that you got one? You can pawn it off anyways, right?”
Many court ladies were the young ladies of good families. However, it can’t be said that their personalities were as good as their upbringing.
Apparently, it was a reality that was hopelessly difficult to accept in the eyes of a young lady whose upbringing was perfectly good. When Maomao sat down at the edge of the dining hall, the said court lady would follow her quietly.
The reason was that those lot, particularly those who gave hostile looks to the court ladies of the new post who assisted the court physicians, won’t approach when Maomao was around.
(I only just gave them advice.)
And they gave her a wide berth from that.
Speaking of what happened, there was a court lady who had come up to them to give a pre-emptive strike to the court physician assistants who stink of being virgins. Just like how Yao did in the beginning, she had brought followers with her. The difference was that, rather than living for the job, it felt that this court lady had come to the imperial court to fish for men. Rather, she was the arrogant type, from the atmosphere she exuded of being one who changed what she ate all the time.
Maomao had noticed the rashes around that court lady’s mouth.
“Excuse me. You seem to have several partners, but do you know about the diseases?” she asked to make sure.
“I won’t go out with a diseased man!”
And she denied it, but Maomao told her about the incubation period. And also that even if her partner didn’t have a disease, if the partner of her partner had one, there was a high chance that it could be passed on. It wouldn’t be limited just herself to have several partners.
Once again, she explained that sexually transmitted diseases weren’t a single type, but several types that can be passed on altogether.
“Have you been feeling tired recently? Also, do you have sores or feelings of discomfort, or even bleeding in your genital area?”
While Maomao interviewed her, the court lady’s face went pale and she never approached her again.
Maomao was quite serious, but Yao’s face turned red. En’en took notes as if she didn’t have knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.
Well then, returning to the topic, today’s meal was a set consisting of congee, soup, and a side dish. There were several side dishes available—your choices were limited to what hadn’t been sold out.
She had said that the portion sizes were small, but normally, there were two meals: morning and night. At noon, in place of snack time, it came with rice.
Maomao got cold steamed chicken as her side dish. Meat dishes were popular so if she didn’t get there ahead of time, there’ll soon be nothing left. The two of them got the same thing.
“It’s not like I’m copying you,” Yao said.
(Yeah, since I never said that.)
Depending on the point of view, it was an adorable reaction.
Seeing the other side dishes, there was a fish dish and a pickled dish. The fish fillet looked a bit like snake. That was probably the reason she avoided the fish.
With that, she wanted to bully her a little, but Maomao was contrary.
Normally, she would camp on the edge of the dining hall, and just eat silently but…
“Come to think of it, I heard that a bigshot from a foreign country is coming over,” Maomao said.
That was all people talked about these days.
“I’ve been told that snakes and lizards are a valuable source of nutrients in the desert, but it seems they really do eat it. I wonder what we’ll have to do for cooking?”
She understood when she travelled to the west, that their cultures were different. She had understood that when she was taken along to the West before. It wasn’t that she went sightseeing, but there were a lot of strange things in the street stalls.
“Maomao,” En’en said, looking at her with eyes of blame. Yao was holding onto her spoon, unmoving.
“…I lost my appetite,” Yao said and set down the spoon gently.
“Yao-sama, you have to eat it properly,” En’en said.
“I’ll eat it if it’s dim sum,” she said to En’en with a slightly sulky look. With a troubled expression, En’en took out a cloth pouch. There was a bamboo flask inside. Just the meals in the dining hall weren’t enough for Yao, who had the hearty appetite of a growing child, so she always brought dim sum with her
“You can eat it after your meal, though.” En’en glanced at Yao. Yao twisted her face with reluctance and picked up the bowl of congee.
(What a clever way of dealing with her.)
By the way, speaking of what was inside the bamboo flask, En’en took out a bowl and poured the contents into it. Some jiggly semi-transparent thing with a sweet fragrance came out.
“Is this…” Maomao asked.
She really was wealthy. It was a high-class dim sum, a dessert perfect for summer. Nourishing and had a beautifying effect, it was something that occasionally gets served at Empress Gyokuyou’s supper as well.
“Yao-sama’s favourite.” En’en held her index finger over her lips secretly. She was probably doing so thinking that Maomao knew what this dessert was.
(Contains nothing uncertain, is it?)
What she was doing was cruel.
“Ahhh, it’s a little lukewarm but it’s delicious.” Yao ate the jiggly dim sum earnestly.
The name of this confectionary is ‘hasma(雪蛤, lit snow frog.)’.
It was probably for Yao’s sake that it would be better to stay quiet about the fact that it was made from frog ovaries.