Volume 7, Chapter 11: Maamei’s Day

“And with that, we’re done.”

Finished with her task, Maamei stretched herself. After distributing the towering stack of documents to those tasked with sorting it in the first place, the office became much cleaner than before.

The current occupants of the room consisted of Maamei and one other person. The one staying in the partitioned section of the room, her younger brother—Baryou.

 “Ryou, you done yet?” She spoke casually, as it was just the two of them.

“I’ll be by the end of today, but…”

With no one else there, Baryou was also speaking casually. Unexpectedly, he poked his head out, his features very much like those of a weakling. Of course, when it comes to this particular younger brother, he refuses to even show himself to strangers, let alone speak to them. 

“I should be making a joke out of this, but I’m out of ideas.”

“What have you thought up?”

Baryou passed a page over to her.

 “Is that all?”

“What…?”

“I expected more from you.”

“Ahh, I’m sorry.”

Her younger brother hated people, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t think up ideas to prank people in his spare time. She might be biased, but only his brain is good. If only her other younger brother gave him a bit of his excessive sturdiness, it would have been perfect.

“We’re already too late to set this up, so we’ll just leave it for next year.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think it’s pointless even if you do.” Maamei took out a sheet of paper from her bosom. Details of the Competition were printed on it.

 “Ahhh, there was such a thing.”

“In the meantime, you can focus on this, okay?”

“…will it be okay?”

He hid himself back behind the partition, so only his worried voice could be heard. Going by the sound of pages being flipped, it seems he had no intentions of taking a break.

 “You can fool people on other days of the year too, you know?”

….

I’m sorry.

I’ll stop now.

m(_ _)m

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“And with that, we’re done.”

Finished with her task, Maamei stretched herself. After distributing the towering stack of documents to those tasked with sorting it in the first place, the office became much cleaner than before.

The current occupants of the room consisted of Maamei and one other person. The one staying in the partitioned section of the room, her younger brother—Baryou.

“Ryou, you done yet?” She spoke casually, as it was just the two of them.

“I’ll be done by today.”

With no one else there, Baryou was also speaking casually. Unexpectedly, he poked his head out, his features very much like those of a weakling. Of course, when it comes to this particular younger brother, he refuses to even show himself to strangers, let alone speak to them.  

“There’s something different mixed in here.”

“Show me?”

Baryou passed a page over to her.

“Isn’t this Grand Marshal Kan’s matter?”

“Kan…?”

“The Ra person.”

“Ahh, the weirdo tactician.”

Her younger brother hated people, but memorised everyone’s names and departments. She might be biased, but only his brain is good. If only her other younger brother gave him a bit of his excessive sturdiness, it would have been perfect.

“If there’s no rush, just bring it to him later.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think it’s pointless even if you do.” Maamei took out a sheet of paper from her bosom. Details of the Go tournament were printed on it.

“Ahhh, there was such a thing.”

“He won’t be working while he’s organising it, right?”

“…will he be okay?” He hid himself back behind the partition, so only his worried voice could be heard. Going by the sound of pages being flipped, it seems he had no intentions of taking a break.

“Isn’t he reaping what he sowed?”

Supposedly, the weirdo tactician, that is, Kan Rakan, didn’t get along with the Prince of the Moon. Maybe because of that, he was the one who pushed the most work onto the Prince of the Moon. Lately, Maamei’s job consisted of off-loading the mountain of documents onto him.

Apparently, there were many protests at the start, but Rakan’s side managed to skilfully deflect them every time. He had a cunning subordinate, who always talked them out of it.

At the moment, that particular subordinate was working for a third party big shot after being headhunted. Thanks to that, Maamei was able to firmly distribute the workload.

Indeed, the Prince of the Moon was probably also enraged by that. The other day, he came to Maamei, declaring “Can’t you make sure he does the work properly?” Moreover, he instructed her to “use whatever means available.”

Being told to use everything at her disposal, Maamei had various ways to accomplish it.

The easiest way would be to use the Prince of the Moon’s influence to make use of court ladies in the area, but let’s hold back. Indeed, she mustn’t exploit her master’s name like that.

Therefore, she used Rakan’s weakness instead.

Mostly, she used Kan Ruomen, Rakan’s uncle. The old court physician apologetically went to reprimand his freeloading nephew. In the end, under the threat of being fed carrot congee whenever he slacked off, he became quite cooperative.

Of course, the matter wasn’t resolved so easily. Rakan started going on a rampage again in the last few days, so she tried a different tactic.

It was regarding the Go tournament being held today. He tried to hold it in the imperial court on his own accord at first, but the Prince of the Moon put a stop to that. Instead, a different venue was prepared, but the issue was, since it was in the middle of town, the crowds were larger than expected.

And so, he suggested using the plaza near the venue, but that required permission from a national level. Overlapping with the rush of the few days before the tournament, the Prince of the Moon was the one who affixed the seal.

As one would expect, he settled down as he wanted the tournament he organised to succeed. The Prince of the Moon said he couldn’t grant them permission if Rakan allowed work to accumulate.

And so, the weirdo tactician worked diligently as if spears were falling out of the sky for the past couple of days, so the military became chaotic for a time.

Thanks to that, the Prince of the Moon was able to return home from work ahead of time. For today as well as yesterday, he was taking a break for the first time in how many months?

“Even so, it’s a mystery.”

“What is a mystery, Ryou?” she responded to the voice behind the partition.

“About why there is a Go tournament. I thought the grand marshal preferred, not to mention is better at, Shogi.”

“…isn’t he good at Go as well?”

“He’s good. It’s said that only the Grand Master of Go could beat him. But…” Baryou paused to think. “He’s unbeatable in Shogi. A monster.”

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“A monster, you say.”

It’s as if Baryou was saying the weirdo tactician lives in a different world.

“The world the grand marshal sees is surely different from ours. He’s complex, bizarre and very interesting. Perhaps due to that, he finds it difficult to distinguish between the people around him, who are far too simplistic in composition.”

“You say it as if you know all about it.” Maamei snuck a peek at her younger brother from the other side of the partition.

Swamped by documents, Baryou was rapidly clearing his workspace with no signs of his hand stopping.

“The Civil Examinations, you know, is full of those types of people. I felt like a mediocre person amidst them.”

“If you’re mediocre, what does that make me?”

“Older sister is older sister, a wife and a mother.”

“Aren’t I extremely normal then?”

She was working right now, but she had children at home. They had a wet nurse and was weaned as well, so it was fine.

Her husband is a military official; she wasn’t sure whether he was working now or sneaking a peek at the Go tournament. He’s a good man, who allowed Maamei to work again, so she won’t pursue the matter.

“Being normal is hard… I’m very envious.” Sighing deeply, Baryou retrieved a bamboo pipe filled with tea from a drawer and drank from it. It’s because he’s scared of spilling from a teacup. “That’s why I don’t understand.”

Don’t understand what? Maamai was about to ask and stopped.

“Why is that person who is not a person, obsessed with gaining something from the likes of a tournament?”

Since Baryou, wearing a look of utter incomprehension, went back to work, Maamei poked her face into the partition.

“I have something else to do now, will you be okay alone? If anything comes up, tell the guard outside.”

“…understood, big sister.”

Although she felt a little uneasy, Maamei left the office.

.

.

.

She wanted to say that her work was completed with this, but she still had one more task.

She headed to the Prince of the Moon’s palace. As it was close to the inner court, she had to pass through various gates as well as present her proof of passage.

At a glance, the palace looked too plain for the residence of the imperial brother. However, the materials it was built with were all of special grade. If there were any officials here who would laugh at it for being simple, you can declare that they are blind to the bad taste of the nouveau rich.

She showed her face to the guards of the palace and was granted passage.

As soon as she entered, a pleasant sweet fragrance filled the air. She followed the aroma to the kitchen. A middle-age woman was cooking baked pastries on a square container.

“Welcome.” The middle-aged woman, Suiren, smiled.

“Thank you for your hospitality.” After greeting her courteously, Maamei looked to the baked pasties. “This looks delicious.”

“Yes. I’ve done well, but I’m baking a couple more. I also have what I made several days ago, so I want you to compare them and tell me which one tastes the best.”

“My goodness.”

It was a side benefit for Maamei, but she must not forget her work. She mustn’t think of bringing some souvenirs for her children. But, thinking of their happy faces as they ate, her face suddenly softened.

“Is something wrong?”

“N-no. You have steamed ones as well as baked ones.”

“Yes. The steamed ones have better shapes, but the baked ones definitely stand out in terms of aroma.”

The lightly charred ones seem to have been baked in the shape of mooncakes.

Suiren sliced it with a kitchen knife and passed it to her.

It was stuffed with a lot of dried fruit, but had a different texture to mooncake.

“Yes, and this too.”

She was passed a steamed one. This one had a fluffy texture, but because of that, the fragrance was diminished.

“Can you bake it in the shape of the steamed ones?”

“Indeed so. That’s what I thought.” Suiren took out the pastry that had been placed in a square mold. She cut it and passed it to Maamei.

“This one is good.” Maamei found herself smiling. It was fluffy, and combined with the consistency of walnut, the sweet flavours of jujube and raisins gradually filled her mouth. Along with the buttery notes, it was mixed with another type of sweetness.

“And then, what I have been setting aside for three days.”

Maamei put it in her mouth. The dough was completely suffused with fruity flavours. Perhaps to prevent it from drying out, the surface was coated with a sweet juice—this too, was moist and delicious.

“….Can I bring some back for my children?” she inadvertently said. Oh no, Maamei found herself holding her mouth.

“Oh my. In that case, these are no good. As for the ones over here, you can take as many as you want.”

How many did she make? After opening the shelf, she was faced with rows upon rows of different types of pastries, all made in different ways.

“What you are eating now is for the young master tomorrow, you see.”

“I, I see.” Maamei, feeling a little disappointed, ate the last crumbs. “I was unsure about which one is good, but there’s no problem with this. Thank you.”

“No problem. But, is it okay to end your work for today here?”

“Yes, it’s fine to take a break from time to time. Since the children don’t give me any trouble, I’ll end up forgetting their faces if I don’t see them.”

It was painful to admit. She liked working, but of course, her children were adorable.

“Um, where’s the Prince of the Moon?” Maamei asked.

If he was around, she planned to greet him before she left, but Suiren shook her head.

“He’s been studying with a tutor for the entire day. Please don’t bother him. Of course, considering tomorrow’s matters, I’ll have him sleep early, so don’t worry,” Suiren answered.

“Well, I definitely have to go see the Go tournament.”

Maamei knew he was studious, so she didn’t find it particularly strange.

“Ahh. That’s right, I haven’t mentioned it to you yet. Maamei, won’t you become the young master’s maid? You’ll pick up the work style quickly since the young master returns early.”

“…I think it will be difficult for me to be a maid. I have children.”

In that case, she would always be with Suiren. What kind of person Suiren was—she had heard many tales from her mother who was the wet nurse of the Prince of the Moon, being friends, so she felt that it was impossible.

“I see. That’s a pity. Then we’ll have to look for another maid,” Suiren said, not sounding disappointed in the least. It was as if she already had other possibilities in mind.

With the pastries packaged, Maamei left the palace.

A pleasant aroma wafted from the package, but she felt that it was somehow unsatisfactory compared what she had eaten just then.

How mysterious, she thought, looking up at the sky.

“Looks like it’ll be sunny tomorrow too.”

While pondering over whether this Go tournament business will be successful, she looked down at the package of baked pastries. When the happy faces of her children came to mind, her face naturally relaxed into a smile.

- my thoughts:
I'll figure out how to deal with the kofi-fuelled chapters (i.e. when's the best time to spam the two(atm) promised chapters in one go hmmm.) Anyways, yes, do check out the competition. It starts on the 8th. I'm not part of it only because I couldn't think up something before the deadline. Oh well xD
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