Maomao beat the bandages with an audible slap.
The dried, white bandages fluttered in the autumn breeze, reflecting the blue sky. A blue sky devoid of clouds. The skies have stayed clear ever since the heavy rain from the other day.
The temperature will start to drop quickly from here on, so washing duty will probably become more tedious. En’en, who lived for her lady, was researching the making of salves to prevent Yao’s skin from becoming rough.
Other than the occasional annoyance, the generally peaceful times continued.
(What was that drawing about?)
Maomao suddenly remembered a certain drawing. The ominous drawing by the girl called Jazuguru.
Speaking of which, the Western Priestess remained in Rii, but was she living comfortably? Of course, it was Ah Duo who was entrusted with this responsibility, so nothing strange will come of it—
However, she once again felt that Ah Duo, as a former consort, was bearing the entire weight of this country’s darkness.
The surviving children of the Shi Clan; though informally, the grandchild of the previous emperor and niece of the current emperor, Suirei; and the Sha’ou Priestess who was considered dead.
The beauty in male-garb handled everything flawlessly, but how does everyone around her see it? No, naturally, it was all under the veil of secrecy, so she didn’t think it would be exposed so simply.
However, the imperial court is a terrifying place, filled with those with excessively sensitive noses.
(It’ll be fine as long as it’s not sniffed out by weird people)
Caught in her musings, Maomao suddenly poured the leftover water in the tub into the canal.
“We have no work for the entire day,” Court Physician Ryuu remarked, dumbfounded.
The sound of crickets chirping filled the medical office. Usually, injured military officials would be arriving in droves around this time.
“There’s nothing we can do if they’re just following the supreme commander’s lead by skipping out.” The young court physician flashed a wry smile, looking somewhat disappointed. He clutched a Go book in one hand.
“More civil officials are skipping, it seems. There was even a dispute over whose turn it was to take a day off. The military officials have it easier, they can just use going out on patrol as an excuse.”
Maomao knew about it. About how desperate this young physician was for a day off, but had to show up for work in the end.
Since the medical office requires a minimum number of working court physicians at one time, compared to other departments, it was harder to take days off.
“If there’s no work for us to do, can I go home?”
Such feeble protests were ineffective against Court Physician Ryuu. “You have free time. How about compounding some medicine that are low in stock?” He smiled cruelly.
Upon hearing the word ‘compound’, Maomao’s eyes lit up and she started edging towards Court Physician Ryuu. “What shall we make?”
“Ah, yeah, sorry, I can see that you’re keen, but.” Court Physician Ryuu carried over a cloth pouch. “Go on an errand for me.”
Maomao’s expression turned displeased in an instant.
“What did you say? Mind sharing it with this old man?”
“Don’t be absurd,” she replied monotonously. Apparently, it reflected on her face.
“I-if it’s that errand, I can….”
The young court physician was shot down completely. Because Maomao was the one nominated, the person herself became uneasy about what it could mean.
“Deliver it to this place.” Court Physician Ryuu took out a map and indicated a location to her. It was a plaza in one block of the capital. It was near the shop where Lady Pai had displayed her magic previously.
“…here?” she asked.
“No need to look so reluctant.”
Speaking of she why she was unwilling, the plaza was smack bang in the middle of that programme. A Go event. Needless to say, she could imagine just who was going to be there.
“Court Physician Kan should also be there. He’s off-duty, so he took the initiative to go out. It’s not his job.”
Somehow, Maomao understood what he was implying.
“With so many people, even if they’re just playing Go, some people are still bound to feel unwell. I hesitate to bother the court physician under normal circumstances, but after all, this is the type of situation where we should ask for help, right?”
Perhaps, most of this can be attributed to arrangements made by Rahan, as the organiser of this entire tournament. Allegedly, the weirdo tactician was eager to play Go, but since his intentions in doing so are unclear, they probably decided to take precautionary measures.
Dad wouldn’t refuse them, and even Maomao was exploited and forced along by Court Physician Ryuu.
(Good for nothing.)
Even though due to En’en’s interest in Go, Maomao had come to work on purpose so that she can take the day off together with Yao.
“You’ll do it properly since it’s work, right?”
Since Court Physician placed emphasis on those words, Maomao could only nod.
Let’s ignore the profoundly envious look the young court physician was giving her.
Even without a map, Maomao could find her way to the hall just by looking at the streams of people carrying Go books.
Crowds of people, irrespective of age or gender, gathered around the rows of Go boards at the plaza. There were a sorry amount of sunshade cloths, and crude setups where games boards were stacked atop wooden boxes.
The impressive gathering of people made even the tacky venue appear splendid. Restaurants on the main street had set up stands all the way along. Children demanded baked sweets from their mothers.
Go related merchandise on sale included even Shogi, the leaf game* and mahjong. On top of that, ornament shops had also moved over for business. Even those with no interest in Go were lured in by the crowds.
(*葉子戯, yezixi. The granddaddy of card games from Tang Dynasty China. Madiao, the wiki link, is said to be the modern variant of it. Playstyle is kinda like poker.)
(All of which appears to be Rahan’s handiwork)
It was that business loving bastrd. No doubt he had charged location fees.
As Maomao weaved through the crowd, she came across familiar faces.
As expected, the two of them were here. Yao was applying salve to a child’s skinned knee. En’en was giving an old man hot water.
“Maomao, what happened to work?” Yao cast her a dubious look.
“Court Physician Ryuu sent me on an errand. Rather than that, I want to know what you two are up to.”
“Ahh, it’s your esteemed brother’s fault.”
Maomao’s eyes narrowed at Yao’s words.
“He rounded up Court Physician Kan, who was meant to have a day-off, and wanted us to help out as well, since one person wasn’t enough hands to go around.”
“You could’ve just refused.”
Apologies to Dad, but these two are off duty. They have no obligation to do the same work as in the medical office. To begin with, this sort of thing shouldn’t be left to Dad, Yao or En’en, but to the town doctors.
And to use Maomao as well.
Sounds like something the stingy Rahan would do.
“You should ask for money.” It bothered Maomao. That pair of glasses with unruly hair is charging an exorbitant sum of money.
“I’m okay with it. I’m not interested in Go anyway,” Yao said.
Finished with applying the salve on the child, she called out “Done.”
“Thank you, big sis.” The child thanked Yao.
Yao being Yao, waved at the child with a smile. And then, noticing Maomao’s gaze, her face stiffened.
En’en lifted her index finger, as if saying “See, our young lady is adorable.”
“If you’re on an errand, you need to go to Court Physician Kan, right? He’s over there though.” Yao pointed towards the theatre. It was quite a large building, one often used to host events.
“Actually, it seems they planned to hold the entire event in there, but…”
There were Go boards set up along the plaza. No matter how you look at it, there were too many people.
“I would like to say it’s been a huge success, but no matter what, this is overdoing it.”
It’s fine to expand the venue all the way to the plaza on short notice, but there were issues with that plan.
There were injured people, as well as those who feel unwell.
The elderly man En’en had been nursing seemed to have recovered. With a toothless smile, he covered his head with a hand towel, since he was going back to play Go, and drank another cup of water. Although it has cooled down, today was a sunny day. It wouldn’t be strange to faint from the sun exposure.
Of course, it’s not that Dad isn’t aware of this. There are people walking around the Go players bearing large bottles and bowls. When a Go player raises their hand, they’d pour out a bowl and pass it over.
Though it was simple, they also prepared means of sun protection, so they must be doing the best they could.
“Ah, Maomao.” En’en drew closer and whispered into her ear. “Besides Court Physician Kan, Grand Marshal Kan is also over there.”
“…” Maomao looked at the package in her hands with an extremely unpleasant expression.
“I was going to offer to go in your stead, but personally, I want Maomao to go.”
“Once this job is over, En’en wants you to let her play one game against the grand marshal,” Yao said.
“Yes. It’s an honour,” En’en said.
In other words, it seems they were telling her to go to the weirdo tactician obediently.
“Allowing you to play for free, really.”
(No, wouldn’t that just be a steal?)
“It’s a sum we would hesitate to pay given our wages,” Yao said.
(No, Yao’s after-meal dessert is also quite expensive.)
All the dim sums jam-packed with ingredients for beauty, health and chest growing she ate every day were high-class goods; does she know how much it costs per month?
(She’s probably being kept in the dark.)
As expected of En’en.
“To minimise commotion, people who win thrice in the plaza will enter the theatre. And people who win another three times in the theatre will be given the right to challenge the grand marshal.”
“You can play if you pay? The fastest way is to play six bouts–wouldn’t that be very time consuming?” Maomao tilted her head at En’en.
“Yes, upon winning you gain the right to challenge. Also, the tournament will continue till tomorrow. Understandably, six wins are considered difficult, so it’ll be truly fortuitous if I can receive guidance.”
Does she think it’s gonna be a walk in the park? Maomao was surprised. Moreover, the second day would be tomorrow—Maomao was off-duty.
(I’ll definitely be called out.)
Maomao spat out a keh as she headed towards the main venue: the theatre.