When they were heading back after their multiple doctor’s visits to the priestess were over, the streets from the view of the carriage were bustling with a spirit akin to new year celebrations.
“It seems like it’ll be faster to walk back,” Yao said.
Maomao knew about her dad’s bad leg, so she kept quiet.
Dad gave a troubled smile. “I’m sorry. It’s a bit far for my legs.”
Yao made an expression of dismay, but it was already too late. While Dad was fine with it, being who he is, it might sour the mood of any other big shot.
Maomao didn’t know if there was any point to the doctor’s visits, but some aspects of it seemed to be useful. Unfortunately, the useful thing wasn’t the medicine that Maomao and Yao prepared, but their lifestyle pointers about taking in more hydration.
In Sha’ou, water, being a valuable resource, isn’t drunk frequently. And the priestess, with her position making it that she couldn’t go relieve herself easily, appeared to drink extremely little. She had been pleased that her headaches subsided when she drank more often.
Next, the priestess reported to them in broken language that she was delighted that she can go out for walks. As an albino, she could only go out at night time, but the sun was comparatively weaker in Rii compared to Sha’ou, and it also rained more often. She told them that she could walk outside with an umbrella when the weather was downcast.
Maomao was on the verge of suspecting that the priestess actually came to Rii for sightseeing.
Of course, it wasn’t that the priestess was free for the entire day. Occasionally, she would also get visitors. Big shots were understandable, but there were also people who come in asking to speak with her for one time.
Like how Lady Pai was popular, the foreign albino priestess was also fascinating to people.
“It seems today’s visitor sought for divination,” Maomao said, suddenly remembering.
“Considering the priestess position, divination would be one of her jobs, but that might have been a little disrespectful. She is the authority of a foreign country after all.”
Everyone agreed with Dad.
Furthermore, she was officially here for medical treatment. Maomao couldn’t feel their concern, but worryingly, most people are like that.
“It’s said that her divinations are spot on, but I have no idea what to think about relying on that. There’s no clear reason for it, and I also don’t know what to think about deciding the future through fortune-telling.” Maomao was bothered about that part. There was no basis to divination. And even if there was, would that priestess possess the ability to read minds?
“It’s because Maomao wants to make sense of uncertain things, yeah,” Dad said.
“You hate divination?” Yao broke in.
“Isn’t it disgusting?” Maomao said.
She understood that things don’t ever come in black and white. But Maomao believed that mysterious things in the world were only due to her lack of knowledge and information. “Like how do you decide where to relocate a capital by burning a turtle’s shell?”
“No, unexpectantly, that has logic to it,” Dad refuted. “By using the animals in the area, you can determine the state of nutrition of the time. That is to say, we can tell how the bountiful the land is. By using the gods and sages in the name of divination, with believers, you can do things on a large scale. That might have been the start of government.”
She can agree with what Dad said. Yao also listened with great interest.
“However, what’s troubling is that even if it was meaningful in the past, it now remains merely for form’s sake, without knowledge of why it’s done and what meaning it holds. That is the most worrying part of it.” Dad made a sorrowful expression. “In the past, when there was crop failure, there was a village who bury the babies born in that year as sacrifices. The poor crop did not abate even with the sacrifices, so they went right on burying new sacrifices. And it was just when there were no villagers to turn into sacrifices, I happened to pass by in the middle of my travels.”
(Ah, I can imagine that.)
Since it was Dad who is predisposed to suffering, she could tell what happened next.
“When I was tied up with rope and dropped into a hole, I thought I was really going to die. If my companion who came after hadn’t noticed, I would probably still be underground even now.”
“….” Yao was lost for words. Dad was talking about quite a heavy past in a calm tone. Dad is wise, but he had the tendency to get a little numb to stories of his personal misfortune.
“You might think that sacrifices are silly, but there is a product to that in the past as well. In that village, fields were planted every year as usual. Though they add fertiliser, there will always be some nutrients they lack. Those are found in the human body,” he said.
Of course, with that reasoning, it would be pointless for other hindrances regarding repeated cultivation. The village Dad visited had crop failure from an insect-borne disease, so their sacrifices had been in vain.
“They would do it from experience even if they don’t know the meaning to it. The origin of sacrifices probably came to be by chance from how crops only grew in the areas where bodies had been buried. However, god was added to it in time, and it became sanctified. The word god is very useful,” Dad said.
The Sha’ou Priestess might also be something that had been sanctified via this process.
While they talked about that, they reached the medical office. Maomao supported Dad as she alighted from the carriage. They still had to write up a report after this.
However, it was noisy in the medical office.
And when she wondered why…
“You’re finally back.” A troubled looking court physician approached them.
“What’s wrong?” Dad asked.
“For crying out loud, have you ever thought that he would come when you two are not around? It’s awkward. We told him that you’re not here, and he said that he’ll wait until you’re back.”
The people who would speak in such a way were limited.
Maomao exchanged glances with Dad.
“Can’t be helped.” Dad went into the medical office first. Inside, as imagined, was the monocle weirdo. The weirdo tactician was lying on a sofa that had been carried in from somewhere.
“Uncle! You took so long!”
“Come on, Rakan ah. Don’t bring in furniture from other places. Look, throw the paper wrapping in the bin. Also, if you only drink juice, I don’t care if you get cavities,” Dad said.
What can she say about the figure of his bending forward to pick up the paper wrapping?
“H-he’s like a nanny.” This was what Yao, who had been brought up by a wet nurse, had thought, but other people would probably have something similar.
Dad started to clean up around him, so the weirdo’s subordinates and the court physician apprentices started to panic and pick up rubbish. Normally, Maomao would join in, but if she were to get close, she wouldn’t be able to help as it’ll get noisy again, so she observed them from behind a pillar.
“Uncle! Maomao! Maomao is close by!” The weirdo sniffed the air.
“Gross…” Maomao inadvertently muttered.
“Maomao, your face, you’re making a really amazing face, so can’t you stop it, I kinda want to keep my distance too.”
Being told by Yao, she smoothed back her twisted mouth and brow wrinkles with her fingers, but she still twitched.
“Maomao! Bring out Maomao!”
“What’s wrong? Since you’re making a racket, should I put in a lot of carrots for dinner? We’ll have carrot congee today,” Dad said.
In addition to that looks like a nanny action just now, he said this line. There were a couple who clutched their bellies, destroyed. The rest looked bewildered.
“Congee is good enough with eggs, Uncle. No, that’s beside the point, Maomao. I’m actually here with a proper reason!” the weirdo said.
“I don’t know what to think about the fact that you were reclined on a sofa you brought in and making a mess from eating snacks,” Dad said as he pulled out the drawer in the medical office. He took out a tuffed toothpick and passed it to the weirdo tactician. Apparently, he was telling him to clean his teeth. “I’ll listen. You turn irrational whenever it concerns Maomao. If you can say something I can agree with, I’ll pass on the message.”
The weirdo tactician nodded as he chewed on the toothpick.
It should be fine to leave it to Dad. Maomao picked up a basket of used bandages that had been left in the corridor. She thought that they can finish the conversation while she was washing up.
Maomao was summoned when she finished washing the bandages and was about to start drying them, so around half a dual-hour passed? Dad showed up at her place with a tired look.
“What did he want in the end?”
Rather than Maomao, it was Yao who asked. It seems she had a curiosity befitting her age.
“No, you see, it was an unexpected request,” Dad replied.
“In what way?”
“It’s nearly time for the crown prince’s debut. It seems he wants Maomao to come in as a food taster for him at the banquet then.”
(Is he even planning to go?)
As Rahan said, the weirdo tactician would skip out for every meeting like the garden party. To the point where he didn’t come to the garden party where Maomao had food tasted last time.
“Why this again….” Maomao said.
She knew full well that he will provoke ire. But it was truly unexpected that he would nominate her. Eating poison is outrageous—even though he would say such a thing from previous experience.
“Telling you to be a maid is one matter, but it’ll be hard to turn down the food tasting post, so what will you do?” Dad asked.
“Even if you ask me.”
The hard to turn down that Dad was talking about was equivalent to saying can’t be turned down. He was weak to pressure. She didn’t care, but due to the exchange before, Dad’s nickname became Mama. She really didn’t care.
“May I ask a question?”
It was Yao who gently raised her hand. Dad nodded for her to go on.
“Didn’t we have a conversation about us sitting with Priestess-sama at the banquet?” she asked.
“That’s true. But we were informed to have either one of you,” he answered.
Maomao or Yao, it was still undecided. It was better than having a lot of attendants and escorts sitting with the priestess, being the important person of a foreign country.
“In that case, Maomao, you go. It should be fine with me there,” Yao declared.
“W-wait a second. Then what about my right to be chosen as well?” Maomao asked.
“You have been specifically nominated, so it’s better you take that up. Above all, what are you going to do if Tactician-sama wanders around when you’re carelessly by the Priestess’ side?” Yao said.
Maomao could say nothing.
Dad was also wordless.
His arrogant behaviour became normalised in this country, but it’ll be troubling to have him act that way before the foreign Priestess-sama. She was someone that even castrated men were not permitted to touch.
“Maomao…” Dad clapped Maomao’s shoulders.
“Leave Priestess-sama to me.” Yao also clapped her shoulders.
“Pl-please wait!” Maomao looked at the two as she waved her hands.
“Maomao, I’m sorry, but you can’t turn it down. Considering Priestess-sama’s circumstances, you have to be with Rakan. It’ll become an international problem otherwise,” Dad said.
“N-no, Dad, I’ll work harder.”
“It’s impossible,” he declared, clapping Maomao’s shoulders once again.
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