A few days later, an area of the medical office was emptied out. It was previously used as a storage area by an apprentice court physician, holding mortars and various study materials, but everything had been removed.
“Was there a major clean up?” Maomao suddenly asked.
“That guy turned strange,” Court Physician Ryuu answered.
“Did his training period end?”
“-mthing like that.” Court Physician Ryuu wrote something in the notebook.
In reality, the medical office closest to the military is a thriving duty location for court physicians. The greater the number of injured people, the more court physician can apply their true skills.
Apprentice court physicians are first assigned here, where it is known to be the prime location. At the end of their months-long internship, they are assigned to a different post; the most competent individuals are commonly assigned to busier workplaces.
By the way, the reason her dad, Ruomen wasn’t posted in the military medical office was that the weirdo tactician would stay around for too long.
The monocle old man hung around every day ever since Maomao was assigned to the medical office, but he hardly visited now thanks to his match with Jinshi, much to her joy.
(Thank thee, thank thee.)
It was times like these when she was thankful for Jinshi.
Ever since Maomao was assigned as a court physician’s assistant, Jinshi’s visits had, too, decreased greatly in number. No doubt he was busy with work and it wasn’t a place he would want to approach. He, in a different sense, had no affinity with the weirdo tactician.
As there were fewer items to wash today, En’en was doing the laundry alone, and Yao was organising the warehouse. En’en, the worrywart, had given her a bell with a piercing sound, instructing “Use this when someone tries to assault you”.
As for Maomao, she was watching over the medical office with Court Physician Ryuu. However, she wasn’t just idling around; she changed the bedsheets, swept the floor and wrote in the logbook. When an injured person came in, Maomao’s task was to provide preliminary medical treatment. Senior court physicians step in only for procedures unable to be performed by apprentices or assistants.
There was little to do today as well. She applied ointment on training injuries and stuck compresses on the bruises of military officials. Occasionally, officials would stop by for cold medicine, and as it happens, the medicine that had been wrapped beforehand for ease of dispensing had run out. However, Court Physician Ryuu added to the stock right then and there. It seems even big-shots make medicine during downtime.
She had nothing to do either, so she asked Court Physician Ryuu for permission to use the stove to distil alcohol, much to his surprise.
“A long time ago, Ruomen also said the same thing before doing so, but…” He wore a bitter expression. “When that guy went to the toilet, a guy came into the room while smoking a pipe.”
“Woah. So there are idiots out here too.”
Using common sense, they should exist somewhere.
“No, Ruomen didn’t give any kind of warning.”
From his flusteredness, she understood perfectly who had been the one smoking the pipe. Her silence was her reading the room.
Court Physician Ryuu seemed to be an old acquaintance of Dad’s, so it made her happy to hear stories such as this from time to time.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t use the stove. Since there’s a chance some idiotic slacker smoking a pipe will approach it. Yes, that’s it. Go use a brazier in the room next door.”
“The fire would be weak though,” Maomao said.
“You won’t need such a big flame. Don’t you just want to make something to kill time?”
“Also, you’re thinking that you won’t be caught if you drank a cup of wine or something, right?”
Why is he so perceptive?
Maomao took a sizeable brazier, a distiller that looks like a kettle with a pipe sticking out of it, disinfectant alcohol, and a bucket filled with cold water.
“Ah, that’s right. Take this with you too.” He left her scissors, medicine wrapping paper, and compounded medicine. “Wrap up all hundred of these for me.”
Apparently, he had no plans to allow her any free time from the start.
Maomao added more coal to the brazier and placed the distiller on top. It was a splendid device, different from the distiller Maomao assembled before using materials from the Jade Palace. The apparatus had kettle spouts on either end of it; two on the top and bottom. It was a set-up where alcohol is poured into the lowest pot and heated with fire so that the evaporated alcohol rises up through the cooling spout on top.
(I want one in the dorms too.)
Due to its extremely unique shape, it would cost quite a sum to make. The one she was currently using was ceramicware, but even one made of metal would probably cost around the same amount.
(I wonder if they’ll give it to me when it gets old and outdated?)
With that naïve thought, she wrapped the medicine in wrapping paper. As there are many officials catching colds this season, they keep medicine in stock. Medicine is the same as food, spoiling when it’s not used immediately, but they’ll probably be gone soon.
While Maomao was diligently wrapping it seems someone had arrived at the room next door. Is it an injured person? she thought as she started to return to the room with Court Physician Ryuu, when…
“Keep working.” Court Physician Ryuu stood at the door to stop Maomao. “We have a guest, but we don’t need tea. It’s probably safer not to prepare any.”
Maomao, while finding it strange, was going to go back to wrapping medicines like she was told… As if.
She pressed her ear against the door.
“I implore you not to say anything so unreasonable. Are you hoping for one more dependable court physician?”
By his standards, Court Physician Ryuu was speaking respectfully. Which meant the other person was stationed above him, but…
(Who could it be?)
Maomao’s question was answered in an instant.
“I’m requesting it well aware that it’s unreasonable. Also, I want two people.”
The voice was beautiful, discernible even across a door. Although the sweetness had diminished, it was replaced with something charming.
(Not a celestial maiden, but he changed to a celestial sage, huh)
It goes without saying that it was Jinshi’s voice.
“As you’ve said, I’m right in the middle of training the apprentice court physicians. However, should I say that half are worthy? Even if they have the physique, their technique is lacking, and even with proper technique, they don’t have enough spirit. Cultivation of both spirit and technique takes time.”
(Spirit, technique and physique? Are those requirements for a court physician?)
“Is it impossible to make them master practical skills?”
“I have no intention of creating dead people for experimentation. If one doesn’t possess a strong spirit, they’ll likely break immediately.”
The choice of words caught her attention.
It was a topic Maomao had been stuck on for the past couple of days; conceived by her thoughts. She wanted to ask about it this instant, but held back for now and channelled all her energy into eavesdropping.
“Those with strong spirits seems good though.”
“If I have to choose, those with fewer emotional attachments would be ideal. If they have abnormally overprotective parents, it would become troublesome. Besides, I don’t think there’s anyone who’d want to head off to a distant land.”
The choice of words was laden with implications.
Jinshi wanted court physicians. Does the ‘head off to a distant land’ imply he wanted to take them on an expedition?
(Preparations for war?)
No, the situation may not have progressed to such an extent, but Jinshi is the type to make all the necessary arrangements. Considering what lies ahead, he might want to increase the number of people in places that need defending.
(If so, north or west?)
Sha’ou is to the west. Hoku’aren is in the north. A large mountain range separates Rii and Hoku’aren. It was near impossible to cross the mountains, which supposedly stand at several li in height. Additionally, most military forces from the north appear at the end of the mountains on the north-west—this question appeared in the court lady exam.
(Thanks to the madam, I still remember it.)
As expected of the person who can’t forgive half-hearted things like last-minute cramming.
Speaking of things in the northwest, there is the western capital – Empress Gyokuyou’s hometown.
(Which reminds me, Pairin-neechan had said something strange.)
Like whether there have been unusual activities amongst the western merchants.
Or these two events might be related.
Absorbed as she was in eavesdropping, Maomao was too slow in realising a strange smoke had started to billow out from the emptying distiller.
Nose twitching, she timidly looked back and was surprised by the rising smoke. She panicked and put out the fire in the brazier with a splash of water.
Her reaction had been swift, but there was no way the people next door could miss the loud hiss of water.
“What are you doing?”
The surprised voice belonged to Jinshi.
Maomao awkwardly wiped up the spilled water with a towel. “Ummm, I dozed off a little while tending to the fire.”
“Ohhh? You have a door imprint on your cheek though.”
Maomao covered her right cheek at Court Physician Ryuu’s words.
She had been caught eavesdropping.
Maomao averted her eyes, but couldn’t escape from Court Physician Ryuu’s gaze. The court physician had grabbed onto Maomao’s head, pressing it down forcefully.
Maomao crouched, her head bowed.
She had honestly thought that being left in the adjacent room meant it was fine for her to overhear, but apparently straining her ears was nevertheless forbidden.
Jinshi was holding back a smile. Basen and two other guard-like military officials stood next to him. Having good looks also has its own hardships.
With his smile under control, Jinshi coughed seriously. “Court Physician Ryuu, can I ask a question?”
“What is it?”
“You said that the success of apprentice court physicians is fifty-fifty, but what about court physician assistants?”
“…what are you talking about? Court physician assistants are aides after all.”
“However, I heard that the work for apprentice court physicians and court physician assistants aren’t much different. In other words, if they possess spirit, technique, and physique, should they be able to be promoted to court physician?”
Jinshi must also have been contemplating what En’en and Maomao had discussed amongst themselves — how one becomes a court physician.
(The issue is with this spirit, technique, and physique though.)
Did Jinshi consider what they have to possess in order to become a court physician? However, even if she argued this point here, it’ll be to her own inconvenience.
Having been an associate of Jinshi’s for so long, she was now familiar with his thinking process. Of course, there are still things that she can’t read, but she knew what he was going to say.
“How strong is this court physician assistant’s spirit?”
She felt a smile being directed her way. Rather than a smile, it was an impish grin.
“This Maomao is just overly bold. More importantly, she’s a woman. There’s no way she can become a court physician,” Court Physician Ryuu said starkly.
(Certainly, it’s just that.)
There was no way Maomao hadn’t thought about whether she could become a court physician.
(Dad would hate it, huh.)
Ruomen had raised Maomao to be a herbalist. It was a skillset sufficient to make a living in the pleasure district, but he never trained her to become a doctor, despite the high prospective income. On the contrary, he had instructed her to never touch dead bodies.
“You might even try use humans as medicine.”
…was what he had said, but did he really mean something else?
“In this case, it’s also fine if they are not a court physician. If they have a court physician’s skill, I can grant special permission to town doctors or pharmacists. So, can you arrange for at least two more people?”
There were implications hidden behind Jinshi’s words. It was similar to the air he emanated each time he brought troublesome matters with him during their inner palace days.
But at the same time, Maomao felt a thrill throughout her entire body.
It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation. Along with the slight prickling tension, excitement appeared; akin to how she felt when she experimented with medicinal herbs by herself for the first time.
Here, Maomao thought about what Jinshi wanted her to do. It was probably, no, it was most definitely troublesome. However, at the same time, it was an opportunity for Maomao to do something that she wouldn’t have been otherwise allowed to do.
Will she regret getting involved in a troublesome matter, or will she regret missing a once in a lifetime opportunity?
Maomao’s answer was a given.
Court Physician Ryuu stared at Maomao. Turn it down, his expression read.
(That I can’t do.)
Maomao went down on one knee before Jinshi. “There is a pharmacist here. Will that be okay with you?”
The corner of Jinshi’s lip tilted up subtly. “And that’s how it is. Your thoughts, Court Physician Ryuu?”
“….” Court Physician Ryuu scowled at Maomao. The evaluation of the work, the apprentices and assistants can be considered to be equal. So was Maomao being female the issue like she thought?
“…I cannot give you an answer at my own discretion. More importantly, this court physician assistant’s adoptive father is Ruomen.”
Dad’s name was dropped.
(Did you have Dad’s feelings in mind?)
Maomao recalled the face of her dad, the former eunuch, who was so soft-hearted he wouldn’t harm a fly, but on extremely rare occasions, destroyed ecosystems.
If he were to gaze at Maomao in sadness…
(That’s really hard.)
Dad is Maomao’s greatest weakness.
“If Maomao can obtain Ruomen’s permission, I’ll have nothing more to say.”
So, can you do it? Court Physician Ryuu’s eyes seemed to say as he looked at her.