“You have a delivery.”
Maomao received a package from the old lady of the dorms. Work ended late and she had just finished dinner. Did the old lady specially bring it over to her?
The old lady was smirking a bit. Maomao looked at the sender, wondering who it could be. It was Gaoshun.
(She’s totally mistaken.)
There’s no question who would use Gaoshun’s name to send things. It could only be Jinshi. He also had the option of using Basen’s name, but he probably used Gaoshun’s since it would be a hassle if he got outed.
“I wonder what on earth could it be?”
Maomao returned to her room, side-eyeing the giggling old lady. A cloth pouch had come with the letter, and the smell of incense wafted from it.
“Elegant as usual.”
She carefully opened the pouch. There was a ceramic pot inside, which contained incense.
Maomao gave it a closer sniff.
(Sandalwood, mixed with a few other things.)
She knew that it’s a good item, but combining it made it feel cheap and crude. It was too plain for something gifted by the Jinshi who handled the highest quality items.
(No, could it be…)
That he had gifted her something lower in quality for her to use? She had a feeling she had told him before that you can discern a person’s status through their incense.
With that in mind, the incense was a little lavish for her position as a court lady who assists court physicians.
She wondered why Jinshi would gift her incense of all things. She had an inkling.
Maomao sniffed her sleeves this time. It still smelled faintly of blood.
(I thought I got rid of the smell.)
Recently, under the guise of excursions, she continued to dissect livestock. Of course, the dissected livestocks’ organs were used as ingredients for medicine, and their meat were also processed.
Today, having caught sound that a lucky huntsman had hunted a bear, she was allowed to participate in its dissection. Court Physician Ryuu had been extremely delighted–bear was rarely encountered since the stink remains if it’s not drained of blood and processed immediately.
She had changed clothes for the dissection, and even donned a leather apron. When work ended, she went to take a bath before returning to the imperial court.
(The town bathhouse is nice every once in a while.)
As the dorm didn’t have a bath tub, she was happy. Maomao, who was raised in the pleasure district, bathed luxuriously nearly every day. In the inner palace, she was allowed to take baths once every couple of days.
Speaking of whether she liked or hated baths, of course she didn’t hate them.
She was given the fee for the bath, and it wasn’t bad to take afternoon baths either.
(Ah, my hair, huh.)
As expected, she didn’t have the free time to dry her hair, so she tied it up without washing it.
Does Jinshi understand what is required to become an actual court physician?
(I don’t know if he knows as far as dissecting cadavers though.)
The man was strangely attentive.
So Maomao thought, as she spooned a heap of incense onto a small plate and lit it. She set a basket on top and covered it with the clothes she will be wearing tomorrow.
(Something like this?)
Just a little bit.
As she got ready to change into her sleepwear, there was a knock on the door.
En’en came in. She had some spring rolls in her hand. “These are the leftovers from today’s dinner. Do you want it?”
There was no way Maomao would refuse En’en’s cooking. She wasn’t that hungry now, but it should be fine to eat it for breakfast tomorrow.
En’en placed the plate of spring rolls on the table. She looked at the incense, eyes sharp. “How unusual for you to light incense.”
“I’m on my period. It’s a little heavy this time.”
That was half-lie. It was just around that weary time of the month.
“Yao-san does it as well, so I copied her.”
In truth, it was En’en who does it though.
“Is that so?”
Maomao thought En’en would stick her head into it, but the court lady didn’t say anything. She might have noticed that Maomao had been going on a lot of excursions lately.
(She can pretend to know nothing, so it should be fine?)
If it doesn’t affect Yao as well, En’en probably won’t interfere with the details of Maomao’s behaviour.
Maomao covered the spring rolls with a cloth, and continued to change clothes.
The first thing she saw when she arrived at the medical office the next day was Yao speaking with Court Physician Ryuu with a look of displeasure. Maomao didn’t see her very much these days, as none of their duties coincided, but she seemed to be in a bad mood.
(Let’s hope she doesn’t say anything weird.)
Uneasy, Maomao started to organise the medicine on the shelf.
“Do I not have any excursions?” Yao asked.
“Nope,” Court Physician Ryuu said starkly and flipped through the logbook. He wrote that there were no issues with yesterday’s work.
“Maomao. Don’t you have a lot of excursions lately?”
Yao also brought up Maomao.
“I do,” Maomao answered. She won’t do a poor job of deceiving her.
“Where did you go and what did you do yesterday?”
“I was given a bear’s gallbladder.”
Currently, Maomao was packing away the bear’s gall she obtained yesterday. She had received the already processed item from the huntsman.
She felt Court Physician Ryuu’s brief glare, but he showed no signs of stopping her. She understood that there was no problem with her talking about this topic.
“Bear’s gall is a valuable herbal medicine, so I was given the opportunity to observe how it’s processed. I also dissected a cow to check for gallstones. Unfortunately, there weren’t any found at this point in time though.”
“If it’s bezoar, cow’s gallstone, I heard that there’s only one present every one thousand cows. Is there a point of going out of your way to look for something that you know is rare?”
“Yes. Cows with symptoms of cholelithiasis have a significantly higher likelihood of having gallstones. When bezoars enter the market, their price rises by a dozen-fold, so finding dubious cows and butchering them on site is not that strange, you know.”
Yao’s face twisted, fuming. Court Physician Ryuu glanced down at the logbook again. It seems her reply got a passing mark.
(I know, I know that.)
Of what Yao really wanted to say.
(Why didn’t you bring me along as well?)
Was that what it was?
And it was Court Physician Ryuu who told her the answer.
“If you also want to go on excursions, go to the dining hall first.”
“Wh-why the dining hall?” Yao said.
“Have you never slaughtered and disassembled a chicken? Do you think you are just watching a bear dissection? That’s how it is. Maomao is quite used to it, you know.”
Uncharacteristically, Court Physician Ryuu had praised Maomao, but somehow, it didn’t make her happy.
“Then, what about En’en? She should be better than Maomao at slaughtering chickens.”
“There’s no point in bringing along people who aren’t motivated from the get-go. Do you think En’en will leave you and go alone? I have no intentions of forcing someone with no ambition. If you think it’s unfair that Maomao is the only person who gets to come, then don’t be a burden to the ones around you.”
Like always, Court Physician Ryuu was being strict.
Yao clenched her skirt and endured with a look of vexation. It was true that she had never held a knife in the kitchen.
(Leaving that aside…)
En’en was scary, standing behind Yao, teeth grinding audibly, and reaching for a bottle of disinfectant alcohol. Scary….
“En’en.” Yao gently took En’en’s hand and stopped her.
Yao is always treated nicely by En’en, but in times like this, she is well-aware on how to handle her over-protective attendant.
“I understand. I’ll quickly learn how to use a kitchen knife.”
“Hoho. Then, start from slaughtering a live chicken, okay?” Court physician Ryuu said.
Certainly, if Yao doesn’t do that at least, she won’t be allowed to come along. Since there were also apprentice court physicians who bawled with their noses running when a pig was killed for dissection.
They cannot move from livestock, then humans. There are probably court physicians who have amputated limbs without anaesthesia or anything.
(It’s a common scene in the battlefield.)
Even if there wasn’t the dissection illustrations that Dad had hidden, it is a place where you can see as many human organs are you would like. No doubt, in a sense, having dissection illustrations as prohibited literature meant that times are peaceful.
(How had Yao taken it since that time?)
Yao must have a great deal of suspicion towards Dad, Ruomen.
If she could take animal dissection at face value, no matter how skilled she becomes with the kitchen knife, it’s best she didn’t do it at all.
If she had gone on the path of medicine just to rebel against her uncle, it would be better for her to give up on it quickly.
Whilst her internal organs had been damaged from food tasting, Yao is still young, beautiful, and smart. She would have many suitors.
(No, then it would make me exactly like Yao’s uncle.)
Yao and En’en hated the uncle, but in a sense, there was still a side path left that could guarantee her happiness. The country of Rii fundamentally has a lot of customs that make life difficult for women alone.
Maomao wrote on the notebook about the herbal medicine she obtained yesterday and put it on the shelf.
That night, Yao went to stand in the kitchen without delay. En’en, who was on the edge, watched Yao’s faltering actions.
“This, like THIS!”
Yao was swinging the knife like she was splitting firewood. Not just meat, she could even cut bone.
“I-It’s dangerous, so start with something smaller.”
“It’s fine. I-I’m chopping meat.”
En’en was panicking. Maomao thought the calm women would do a better job at teaching Yao, but this was no good.
Maomao was going to return to her room as if she saw nothing, but her eyes caught onto En’en’s. En’en was watching Maomao with a terrible glint in her eyes as she secretly pointed to the table. A dish that was already cooked. Moreover, it was chilli prawns(乾焼蝦仁).
Maomao gulped down saliva. Why did she cook it beforehand? The piping hot steam was quickly escaping. Large tender prawns and various kinds of vegetables. It should be spicy as it was cooked in sauce, but with a little bit of fruit juice added, it should result in a mild, good tasting flavour.
How delicious would it be when eaten with rice? The springy meat should pop in her mouth.
So, speaking of what En’en was trying to say…
(If you want to eat, help out, is it?)
Maomao washed her hands with narrowed eyes. In the end, she couldn’t win against the allure of the prawns.
For the time being, Maomao took out a knife that was a size smaller than what Yao was holding. Then she placed a carrot on the chopping board. “Yao-san, please cut this first.”
“A carrot? I want to chop meat though.”
“Court Physician Ryuu might say, you can’t even chop a ginseng?”
Ginseng. A carrot for medicinal use.
“…I get it.,” Yao said.
“Then, please switch the kitchen knife to this one. There are different ways of cutting depending on the type of knife. The knife Yao-san is holding onto is used to chop bone so it’s not appropriate for soft meat or vegetables. It’s not a problem if you’re practicing amputating a patient’s arm, though.”
“….” Yao bit her lip as she changed knives. En’en breathed a sigh of relief.
Yao, who is enthusiastic about studying should have the knowledge that medicine and food are equally important for a healthy body. However, the extent of her knowledge wouldn’t go as far as the types of knives.
“You’re holding the knife wrong. Please hold it like this. Again, you prop up the carrot like so.” Maomao gave instructions as she moved Yao’s hand.
“Hold the carrot in place…, then without swinging it down, slowly insert the blade. En’en maintains the knives properly, so it’s nice and sharp. You don’t need to force it. When you’re cutting off infected skin and flesh, you’ll end up cutting the living blood vessels.”
Yao chopped off the stem of the carrot.
“Round slices like this, at about five bu(3mm) thick.”
Chop. Chop. Chop. Once she got the knack, she’s a competent child. Although she looks like a mature woman, she is actually a sixteen year old maiden.
“I’m done,” Yao said.
The carrot was completely chopped up.
“Then, this.” Maomao took out a daikon.
“I’m done with vegetables.”
“You’ve only just cut round slices, right? Let’s cut meat after you’re good at peeling daikon skins.”
Speaking of which was harder, it was probably peeling, but Maomao wanted her to get used to vegetables. It would be troubling to have her charge at Court Physician Ryuu when she is able to handle meat. No, she has to slaughter chickens before that happens, though.
Yao seemed displeased but she obediently picked up the daikon.
“Please don’t think you can immediately peel it entirely. First, cut it into easy to peel sizes,” Maomao said.
“I know already.”
While Yao was slicing the daikon, Maomao gazed at the carrots, wondering what she could do with them.
En’en gestured at the pork Yao had hacked down and dried shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are a high-class item, so Maomao didn’t bother asking how the other woman got her hands on them.
And then speaking what else was available, it was just seasoning.
(Cook sweet and sour pork, huh.)
Just perfect that Maomao has powder made from potato. It might be good to cover the meat with it and fry it in oil.
Although she was thinking that the prawns will get cold, En’en was staring fixedly at Yao to make sure her young lady wouldn’t get hurt. No other choice, Maomao decided to make it.
This time, Yao spoke to her.
“I won’t stop trying to become a court physician.”
“Women cannot become court physicians.” Maomao wasn’t lying.
“But aren’t you being taught the skills required to become a court physician?”
“…” She couldn’t answer. If she wasn’t going to lie, she had no choice but to stay silent.
“I’ve thought a lot since that time. About the book we found at Rakan-sama’s house.”
Despite wanting to make a weird face upon hearing the name she really didn’t want to hear, Maomao listened quietly.
“The ideology is hard to accept, but I can understand that it’s probably required for people who take part in medicine. And to know the anatomy of the human body, you have to start from practicing on livestock, right?”
A bright child is, at the same time, a hassle. It is likely that if she doesn’t know… if she pretended she didn’t know, she would pick a more peaceful path.
As far as Maomao thought, it was all the more so for En’en. She had to be wishing for Yao’s happiness.
However, by learning the same things as court physicians, her path to peaceful happiness would slip further from her grasp.
“…Yao-san. A doctor is a job where you would occasionally chop up people. There are also cases where you would have to cut open a pregnant mother’s womb to prioritise the child when you are told that the mother and child are in danger. You would have to amputate a patient’s limb without anaesthesia while they beg you not to. Push in bowels that are protruded and sew the skin on the abdomen as well.”
“By having a job that makes you stink of blood, it’s possible that you won’t be married for your whole life. You would be hated, as blood is filthy. People won’t approach you unless they have extremely strange tastes, you know.”
“Faint-hearted men who are afraid of blood would be refused from our side. Is that right, En’en?”
“M-Milady.” En’en, who normally tries so much to get Yao far away from men, had a complicated expression.
“Ah, I broke it. Is peeling a daikon actually hard?”
“Even though En’en made a tree peony for decoration.”
“I think En’en-san is a special case,” Maomao replied honestly, then fried the starch-covered-meat in oil.
Yao puckered her lips at the shredded daikon as she challenged it resolutely.
It seems it will be a little while later when they could eat the prawns.
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