“It’s gotten quite bustling.”
It was her dad, Ruomen, who was speaking in a calm tone. He had taken off his white court physician robes today. Though he was wearing trendy male clothes, his round features and gentle face resembled an old woman. He was tapping his cane as he ambled along the main street.
“Try not to fall.” Maomao looked around as she walked beside her dad. It was fine if it was the street with nothing, but a large street with lots of traffic had more people, which had more than usual with the festival racket. An elderly man missing a kneecap would fall over if anyone bumped into him.
“It’s fine,” he said.
“Yes, yes. Please listen.”
Normally, she would be speaking more bluntly, but she controlled it today as there were other people around. Yao and En’en, and the constantly angry court physician whose name she couldn’t remember had also come along. There was also a military official, but this was an escort.
“It would be better if we used a carriage.”
“With this many people here, wouldn’t a carriage just hold up the street?” Dad had said it cheerfully, but it was awkward to make an elderly with a bad leg walk.
To speak of why these individuals were out and about, they were tagging along to buy medicine. Ingredients for household medicines would normally be delivered right to the medical office’s doorstep, but apparently, for rare medicines, they would go for direct meetings. She was told that they would be tagging along frequently now for medicine buying since there were a lot of merchants from distant places in particular.
The reason Dad was out to buy medicine was that he was the most adept among the court physicians in foreign languages. The reason Maomao and the others were coming along was for study.
This was a very joyous occasion for Maomao. On top of being able to be with Dad, she can see unusual medicines. She was excited, but…
“Don’t do anything unwarranted.” The court physician, the angry court physician, watched Maomao fixedly. She felt that he had been observing her from the start, but he got more strict ever since he discovered the frog-laced salve from the other day.
“I’m sorry.” Dad didn’t contest it either.
Maomao herself had been already been planning to stay compliant in other places.
Compared to before, Yao seemed to be more respectful to Dad. She was a meddlesome person as usual when it came to En’en, but recently, Maomao understood that the court lady had quite a good personality.
(Yao is probably sheltered.)
The court lady was wearing a composed expression, but there would occasionally be a crazy look in her eyes when she perused the shops. Along with being unused to the throngs of people, she looked unsteady on her feet. En’en, seeing that, seemed as though there was some inexplicable emotion brimming in her expressionless mien. How to put it, it looked like the eyes you get when you stare at a squirrel you sighted adoringly from a distance.
(Could it be the right person in the right place?)
En’en handled the Yao protection charm well, though.
(Could she be having a bit of fun?)
…was what she wouldn’t not think. It might be better than doing it against her will, though.
During the time Yao’s eyes sparkled at the candy sculptures, they reached their destination. It was an eating house targeted at the elite. A shop where you can organise confidential discussions.
(It would be more useful to have private rooms.)
Even though it’s medicine, foreign wares are expensive. If you carelessly try to make a deal on the road, it wouldn’t be unusual to get robbed on the way back. Thus, they had an escort with them.
As it was during the daytime, there were many female customers. It seems that there were a lot of light dim sums during the day; the freshly steamed baozi looked delicious.
“Please come in.” A waiter guided them to a private room.
There was a bright haired foreigner in the private room. He had thick body hair and wore a thick beard under his nose.
Maomao and the others were going to follow in after Dad into the room, but the foreigner raised his hand.
He was a bit far away so she couldn’t hear him. However, Dad looked at Maomao and the other two while shaking his head.
“Only three people can come in,” he said.
If it was three people, then the ones left out would be Maomao and the others. The two court physicians were required, and they also wanted to leave the escort just in case.
“Or rather, don’t bring the female children, it seems he said. If it were someone else, it would have been fine.”
Will we have to wait in the corridor? she asked, crestfallen.
“You are experienced with shopping, right? Why don’t you go outside to buy other things for us?” The court physician handed a piece of paper and some money to Maomao. The court physicians’ favourite treats were written down. The paper was crammed with writing and there was a considerable sum of money too. “You can buy whatever you like if there’s change leftover. Candy sculptures are fine too. Come back in a dual hour.”
This court physician was always angry, but it seems he didn’t forget about awarding sweets. It seems he clearly saw that Yao was interested in the street stalls.
“You know how to use money properly at least, right?” As if she couldn’t stand that Maomao was the one who got the money, Yao charged at her.
(Does she even know what she means by saying that?)
In other words, this young lady revealed that she didn’t know how to use money. As if she had learned about it recently, she was a little proud.
Behind Yao, En’en’s eyes were sparkling. “Isn’t our young lady adorable?” her eyes said.
Yao was complaining that Maomao was carrying the money. That said, she didn’t feel at ease to pass it to Yao, so she handed it to En’en instead.
Yao looked somewhat dissatisfied, but it seems she didn’t oppose leaving the wallet to En’en.
“Shall we start with the steamed buns?”
As the money was now in her hands, En’en naturally started to split up the sums.
When Maomao peeked at the piece of paper and saw the name of the shop indicated, she contorted her expression.
“What’s wrong?” Yao asked.
“This shop always sells out at noon.” Maomao pointed in the direction of the shop.
“Yao-sama, that’s how it is.” En’en was quick to read the atmosphere.
Maomao tugged the hand of the lost Yao. En’en too.
“Once it’s sold out, our evaluation will go down,” Maomao said.
And Yao shuddered. “Let’s hurry up.”
The three of them dashed all the way to the steamed bun shop.
Strolling idly on the main street—what a naïve thought.
Maomao, Yao and En’en sighed deeply under the shade of a willow tree.
“Court physicians get paid so well, don’t they—”
Maomao looked at the mountain of pastry packages. To some degree, it was a statement that was rich with sarcasm.
“There are a lot of fresh sweets, but can they finish them all?”
They visited multiple shops and got their hands on a large volume of sweets. Was the money leftover their tip?
“….” Yao was not used to running, so tired it seems she couldn’t make a sound. En’en tactfully went to buy fruit juice from a street stall and passed it to her.
The sweets they bought were all from famous shops. They were commonly procured at Rokushoukan. To have left the money in Maomao’s custody, the court physician must have known that she knew a lot of those shops.
“I think we’ve bought enough, though.” En’en sqinted at the piece of paper.
There was one more name written at the end.
“Ahhh, this place, huh.” Maomao dropped her shoulders. It was located quite far off, so she didn’t really want to walk.
“I don’t think it’s sold out, but. We still have half-a-dual hour left too.” She peered at Yao.
“I’m good.” Yao looked lively as she had drunk up the fruit juice.
Maomao and En’en exchanged glances and tilted their heads. What should we do?
“En’en. What’s with that attitude?” Yao said.
“No, Yao-sama. I won’t ask for the impossible.”
“I’m going! I’m going, okay!”
Though En’en was expressionless, she was probably be thinking, “A bluffing milady, so cute.” From the back, Maomao could see her shapely backside was sashaying playfully.
“The shop is a little way out on a side street…” Maomao guided them as they walked. The bags of snack in her arms were questionably a hassle. Yao pretended to be tough by carrying the most items, so it was somewhat better, though.
(A competitive spirit isn’t bad.)
In this world, there are many arrogant people who make a show of the position they got from birth. However, it seems Yao wasn’t the type. Her expressed desire to become a court physician assisting court lady, was that also related to that part of hers?
The shop they were headed for wasn’t actually a confectionary shop. It was a shop that sold unusual ingredients, more of a wholesale shop. For a court physician who is skilled in compounding medicine, he might cook a little too.
The instant they entered the backalleys, the atmosphere changed substantially. Private homes increased when they passed through the space between the shops. A cat yawned under the shade of a tree, and a child wearing an apron was teasing it with a foxtail in hand.
There were women washing laundry at the canal, and before a tethered dog, chickens in cages—tonight’s sidedish perhaps.
“I-is there a shop in such a place?” Yao said uneasily.
Instead of replying, Maomao pointed to a small signboard. When it matched with the name written at the end of the piece of paper, Yao looked relieved.
“Why couldn’t they set this shop closer to the front?” she asked
“The closer to the main street, the higher the tax,” Maomao answered.
The higher the pedestrian traffic and the better the location, the more tax they will take. She didn’t know how it was calculated, but this place would have to be somehow cheaper compared to the front.
“Shall we finish this as soon as possible?”
They were going to head inside the store, but En’en suddenly stopped in her tracks.
“What’s wrong?” Maomao asked, and En’en pointed to the other side of the canal. There were a number of children crowding around a single person.
Are they playing? she thought, but it looked strange.
As she watched to see what was happening, a shadow dashed past them.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!”
It was Yao, crossing the small bridge and pushing herself into the crowd. It surprised the children.
“YOU’RE BULLYING, AREN’T YOU?!”
Since she screamed out, the children scattered.
(How should I say this?)
She’s young, Maomao thought as she chased after Yao. There was a lone child left standing before Yao. The one who had been surrounded. If they took Yao’s word at face value, it would have to be the bullied child, but…
“…huh? This child?” Yao tilted her head.
Maomao also studied the child’s face and copied her in tilting her head.
“She seems to be a foreigner child,” En’en said.
The child was wearing their clothes but her facial features were different. She looked under ten. Her hair and eyes were black, but her skin was rosy, white colour rather than yellow. She had a sweet face; she had big eyes with thick lashes.
(Her skin colour resembles Empress Gyokuyou.)
In that case, she could consider that she is a mixed blood child, but she understood why En’en had said foreigner child. There was a pattern on her face. It wasn’t the type of ink drawn on criminals. It looked like a curse, the red ivy design that framed her eyes.
Ink isn’t put on faces in this country. Maomao drawing freckles on her face was quite out of the ordinary.
“Are you okay?” Yao asked the child.
The child tilted her head with a lovable expression.
“Could it be that she doesn’t understand?” Yao looked troubled. It would be fine if the child said something, but there was not a peep out of her.
“It seems this child can’t speak.”
It was one of the children Yao had scattered just then who suddenly spoke to them. “She looked lost, so we asked where she came from but she wasn’t speaking to us at all. That’s why all of us were asking her, but it seems she can’t talk.” The child simply stated that and ran off.
“Ummm…” It seems Yao had dived in without any idea of what to do.
(It’s troubling even if you look at me.)
A lost, mute child from a foreign country. They also had no knowing if she understood them.
“What should we do?” Yao asked.
(That’s what I want to ask.)
What should we do? Maomao was at a loss.
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