With the ending of cicada songs, the sounds of crickets could be heard.
(There are probably cricket fights in town.)
Cricket fighting—a pastime that pits two crickets against each other. Similar to cockfights, it wasn’t unusual for it to involve money, but the hubbub in town was located a little further away. Maomao was sitting by Yao’s bedside in an estate within the capital’s suburbs. They were at Yao’s home.
“I want to return to work soon.” Yao looked outside while clad in sleepwear. Over ten days have passed since her food tasting. Her consciousness was murky for a time, but she was probably fine by now.
“En’en will be delighted if you return soon,” Maomao said.
En’en was working. Though she had stepped down from serving Jinshi and was working at the medical office, she was probably still absent-minded. She had been dismissed upon her constant slacking off ever since Yao collapsed. It seems she had been nursing her the entire time, but Yao had chased her out, Maomao was told.
“I felt that I could’ve made it even without En’en, though,” Yao muttered to herself.
“I don’t think that could’ve been prevented.”
“…” She inadvertently went silent. Maomao had a disposition where she would stuff poison she was interested in her mouth. She already had an experience with the destroying angel as well, she had spat it out before it was absorbed by her digestive system.
(That time, the madam also punched my gut.)
As if she was used to courtesan aborticides, the madam showed no mercy. Maomao thought that even her stomach would be vomited out.
And so, she learnt of the taste and texture of mushrooms. She might have noticed it from retaining the model of mushrooms.
“Am I really inexperienced?” Yao combed her bangs up. Due to the poison, she had lost all her fat. Her breasts were still in good health.
Maomao passed Yao the medical broth Dad had entrusted her with. She had crossed the mountains to recuperate in her own home, but Maomao tilted her head a little when she saw the estate.
The estate itself was splendid but had a somewhat lonely atmosphere. Even the servants who came to greet Maomao were few for the size of the estate.
“I’m sorry that we don’t have many servants,” Yao said.
Maomao should reply with “Not at all”, but she couldn’t do flattery well.
“This is supposed to be a secondary residence. My uncle had seized the main residence.”
“Is that how it is?” So that’s why she was living in such a quiet place. Maomao had known that Yao had good parentage, but why did she try to become a court lady who assisted court physicians—Maomao felt she understood her excessively high aspirations.
“En’en was also dismissed once, but she came back. Having her serve me didn’t erase my desire to succeed in life, though.”
Apparently, Yao’s father had passed away. She had an inheritance, but the entire family was passed down to her uncle. According to Rii’s customs, women followed men. When her uncle took over, Yao would have to marry in accordance with her uncle’s wishes.
(Also where she tried to get skilled at her job.)
The brave girl might have used this as a way to rebel against that fate.
“En’en even did something wasteful. It seems the Prince of the Moon had taken quite a liking to her.”
“I guess so,” Maomao said.
It’s not like she doesn’t understand why he had taken a liking to her. Maomao wasn’t one to talk, but Jinshi was quite twisted. Rather than someone who pampers him, he’s probably more at ease with someone who maintains the minimum contact necessary with him.
“Even though I think En’en would be fine wherever she goes.”
“Actually, I feel that En’en can display her true capabilities since she’s by Yao’s side.”
The part where she displays to the extent where it’s troubling is scary. Yao’s chest in particular, she had no doubt raised her while always keeping in mind the nutrients she needed.
(I want her to pass me a list of the things she made her eat.)
Maomao found herself making grabby hand motions.
“Yes. That’s why even though I tried to make her leave, it’s really, no good. It’s not that only I am no good. En’en also said she really needed me, so it can’t be helped,” Yao said.
How to put it, could the part where Yao is tsun and occasionally dere a bull’s eye for En’en as well? Maomao looked forward to seeing how she would react if Yao were to get married.
(T/N: It was easier to translate with tsundere as is, but for those who don’t know what it means: this explains it in better detail than I can.)
“Since it really can’t be helped,” Maomao said, glancing at Yao.
“It seems Maomao carried out a number of jobs that we didn’t know about.”
“About what?” Here she feigned ignorance. She felt guilty. Although it helped out, Maomao had made use of the criminal who had served lethal poison to Yao. And, officially, Yao had failed her food tasting, and besides, she suffered a stigma where she let an important person die.
(There aren’t any good points.)
“By all rights, I shouldn’t be treated this courteously. All I did was fail the food tasting. But I’m treated respectfully and will still get a job even hereafter. I’m not a child who thinks of the world as a forgiving place,” Yao said.
“You don’t have to say anything, I’m just talking to myself. Maomao can just drink tea while zoning out,” Yao continued speaking animatedly. “It’s not only that I’m not getting punished, everyone around me is being nice. Only that, I know, at least, that I’m not taking people seriously. Since I feel that it wouldn’t be smart to complain at this point, all I say here is just childish proof, but I want you to let me say this much. Yeah, I’m only speaking to myself.”
It appears that Yao had vaguely noticed that the incident ended differently to how it did in public. There were probably many people aside from Yao who also found it suspicious. However, as it was best to pretend as though nothing happened, everyone was staying silent.
“If En’en were to know about it, I don’t know what she will do. Even if I understand, she might not listen to me. That’s why I want you to never, ever let En’en realise this.”
It’s definitely true that En’en would suspect this matter. If she becomes aware of who the true culprit is, and that they are still alive, she might take revenge for Yao.
“The weird things En’en does for my sake, I don’t want them to influence my future prospects in this life. I’m done. That’s all.”
It indeed felt like tsun and then dere.
This incident ends here—as long as it’s what the higher-ups decided, Maomao was happy to follow their lead.
It wasn’t good to stir up things clumsily.
“My hearing is poor so I couldn’t hear properly. Are you okay with that?” Maomao asked.
“Oh my, what a pity,” Yao replied with a hint of playfulness. After discussing with Yao her return to her former professional duties after a couple of days, Maomao left the estate.
Since she had a day off today, the usual carriage wasn’t here. It was a little far, but she’ll walk home.
She looked to the side—children were running along with insect cages in their hands. The bustle of the festival was gone, and the atmosphere felt lazy and calm.
Everyone in town will probably only be talking about the foreign priestess’ death for some time. The lingering memory of the festival was also gone, reverting back to ordinary life.
Breathing in the slight chill in the wind, Maomao headed for home.
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