Volume 6, Chapter 28: The Next Priestess

With a rattle, bones were placed inside a ceramic jar. Only small shards of a bone just large enough to rest on two palms could go in.

It was adorned with a bundle of white hair bound by silk, resembling a cord with tassels.

Not even in one’s wildest dreams, would the bones of a nameless woman be held in such esteem in a distant, foreign land. She couldn’t have imagined that she would be sent off by a large throng of people, accompanied by the thrumming of music that calmed the spirits.

While touching the black band that signified mourning only for appearance’s sake, Maomao quietly left the scene.

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After that, the priestess passed away as planned. Her examination was performed not only by Maomao, but also in Dad’s presence. If it were another court physician, Maomao would’ve had to give the priestess medicine that would’ve really made her die once.

(Since I can’t fool Dad completely.)

She felt bad that it came across like a threat, but Dad was a person who always becomes generous when human life is concerned. He became partly complicit for her sake.

And then, speaking of the real priestess…

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“Is this place all right with you, Priestess?”

It was Jinshi who enquired. They had no idea what to call the woman who was no longer priestess, so in the end, they continued to call her that.

As long as she was no longer priestess, she wasn’t forbidden to men.

“Yes, it is very cálming.”

The room was covered with multiple layers of curtains. It was specially prepared for the priestess so she wouldn’t be in contact with direct sunlight.

“I’m glad to hear it. If you can’t stand the furniture, I would’ve considered replacing though.”

The voice resounding out from behind Jinshi was a beauty in male-garb. It goes without saying that it’s Ah Duo. It’s not a stretch to say her place has already become a haven for people who can’t go out in public.

His imperial highness still visits Ah Duo’s villa. Although Ah Duo was no longer a consort, the fact that she possessed a wisdom greater than that of low-rank officials is well circulated.  Otherwise, they might have returned to being drinking friends.

It was reason enough to enclose the priestess in such a place.

The priestess didn’t want to step down from the position of Sha’ou’s priestess. Thus, she erased evidence of her physical body, by losing her life outside the country.

She didn’t have the means to defect. The dignity of the priestess will plummet.

That the priestess had tried to choose death, might have meant that she felt that she had no options left.

(No such thing.)

Does she understand the value of an individual who has continued to sit at the top of a nation, to a neighbouring country? She’ll be useful even after stepping down from that public stage.

The intelligence she had accumulated over several decades, how valuable would that be?

The priestess might consider it as a betrayal of the country she had resided in for a long time, but it seems she can’t say that now.

“I wonder if they will properly comply with the bargaining chip.”

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“They will. Since there are two hóstages.”

Arrested as criminals—it was regarding Lady Pai and Airin. Considering their crimes, it wouldn’t be out of the question to have them beheaded one day.

“Besides, I have requested for ássistance with ensuring the king doesn’t participate in wár,” she said something considerably bold.

“If we can have correspondence to that…” Jinshi also displayed a determined smile. It probably won’t have any effect on the priestess who transcended genders, but it was unpleasantly dazzling even in this dark room.

There was no clean and dirty to government, it was only about being able to govern well—so conversations like these probably aren’t that unusual.

Even though Maomao had left Jinshi’s room, she made to follow after him.

“Ah, wáit.” The priestess called her to a stop, and Maomao turned around. The priestess was holding onto some scrolls. “Táke this.”

Instead of Jinshi, she passed it to Maomao. What could it be, she wondered as she opened the scroll. It was just some rolled up parchment, several of them stacked together. They were very clumsily drawn doodles.

“A child’s drawings?” Maomao found herself saying.

“Yés,” the priestess affirmed.

But were there children in that villa? Maomao tried to remember, and her eyes widened.

(There should be one.)

There was a child who couldn’t speak whom that attendant had brought along. There should be a girl called Jazuguru, whom the three of them had tried to search for the guardian of to no avail.

(Which reminds me, I haven’t seen her in the villa.)

As it was something that Jazuguru had drawn, Maomao studied it intently to see if there was a deeper meaning to it. “Hmm,” she wanted to tilt her head.

The drawing made using dyes depicted two people wearing white clothes. They were most likely young women. One person’s hand was wrapped in something that looked like bandages.

“Is that, me?” Maomao asked.

“Yés,” the priestess answered.

If she took it as that the girl had drawn Maomao and Yao, she probably had to accept it. However, when Jazuguru met them, En’en was also there. Also, back then, they weren’t wearing their court physician apprentice uniforms.

What? She tilted her head. There were numbers written on the back of the parchment. It was probably a date, but it wasn’t numbers she was familiar with.

“Ummm, this is…”

“This is whát Jazgül drew before we left on óur journey.”

“Before?”

No, isn’t that odd? It was before their meeting with the girl. What kind of joke is the priestess making?

Unusually, the priestess displayed a slightly playful expression.

“Didn’t I téll you? Even withóut me, the néxt priestess will surely come along. That day, when Jazgül got lóst, she wás unusually wilful and ventured outside. Without a doubt, it wás to meet you and the others.”

“N-no, that sort of thing is…” Maomao didn’t believe in things that had no proper basis. The priestess had to be making a joke, she thought as she flipped to the next parchment. The second sheet had the drawing of someone who looked like the priestess, an excessively sparkly person, a slender person, and in addition to that, the drawing of the Maomao from just then.

It was the current scene as is.

“Please look at the lást page carefully afterwards.”

“…” Maomao had no idea what to say. She just stood stock still in shock.

“I’ll just say óne thing. I also had it in the pást. The Priestess of Sha’ou, in exchánge for lacking something, is said to pòssess a different pówer. I láck colour, and Jazgül lacks her voice. It was something that disappeared once I discòvered my true physique, however.”

Jinshi came back to the shocked Maomao. “Oi, what are you doing. We’re leaving.”

“Y-yes.” Maomao followed him flusteredly, and Jinshi went onwards with a mystified expression. Did he not hear the conversion from just then?

(What on earth is it, this priestess business?)

There should be some kind of explanation behind it. But she didn’t know. No, wait, the girl might have drawn that by chance, and it just matched up with the situation and such, Maomao thought as she boarded the carriage.

When she got on, she unrolled the last sheet of parchment. She could only tilt her head again.

“What’s this?” Jinshi asked.

“Who knows?”

It was a drawing rendered by a single, unbroken line covered by pitch-blackness had been haphazardly covered the entire page.

- my thoughts:
...D: Well, epilogue next chapter.
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