When the weather had warmed up considerably and the butterburs became inedible after growing shoots, Maomao was shown into a gloomy place.
“Is it finally the main event?”
Tenyuu cracked a joke. He was the only one who was composed; the other apprentice court physicians around them were ghastly pale. Occasionally, they would give Maomao a mystified “Why are you here?” look, but couldn’t voice it.
“Some special treatment, am I right?”
Except for Tenyuu.
He may be a frivolous man, but he has balls. He was probably the most relaxed when it came to dissections of livestock. He fell behind the other apprentice court physicians in classroom lectures, but he surpassed the others in practical skills for his composure.
“Could it be special treatment, I wonder.”
He had no particular reason to speak, but apparently, this talkative man has to talk to someone first to calm down. Compared to the other court physicians who were jittery from nerves, he spoke with Maomao more often.
“If I have special treatment, then can you give me that white court physician robe as well?” she asked.
“Now that can’t do, Nyannyan*.”
(*娘娘, niang niang in Chinese. Fyi, the same as the lady in Lady Pai [Pai-nyannyan])
(No, it’s Maomao.)
Tenyuu got her name wrong, perhaps on purpose.
It was a pain to correct him, so she left it at that.
However, it wasn’t that she couldn’t understand what Tenyuu said.
(Special treatment, huh. Nothing I can do about it even if he calls me that.)
By all rights, Maomao wouldn’t be among the court physicians, walking along a dim corridor like so. As for where they were going, it was the place where the bodies of criminals sentenced to death penalty were kept. Although they were accompanying court physicians to the morgue, they were going along a special passage so they won’t be seen.
What is Jinshi letting Maomao do?
(Does he have some idea or something?)
It’s somehow useful to have Maomao broaden the scope of her medical knowledge—might have been the reason, or it might not be.
That man has a masterpiece of a face that is beloved by the heavens, but the same doesn’t apply to his insides. No, that was a faulty expression. Was it more correct to say that he isn’t balanced inside-out and has an inferiority complex towards his outward appearance?
Was that why? He had played dirty before, to a surprising extent. When he was in the inner palace, he had put the consorts and palace ladies in place through his own appearance. And recently he had played a match against the weirdo tactician.
(That hadn’t been dirty.)
If it was for his own goals, there were some actions he couldn’t take.
Could the attempt to treat Maomao as a court physician this time be the same?
(Since I was originally treated as a convenient pawn.)
Maomao wasn’t wondering about what happens next. And besides, it was going as she desired.
They reached the morgue while she was thinking about that. The damp and humid atmosphere clung to her skin.
“Over here.” Court Physician Ryuu pointed at the door at the end of the dim hallway. After he opened the heavy door, which creaked, the humidity intensified.
(Smells like alcohol.)
It should be a pleasing smell to Maomao who liked wine, but she wasn’t in the mood to drink at all. In the middle of the room, was a bed with a naked man lying on it. There was a distinct rope mark around his neck.
It was the body of a criminal who had been sentenced to death by hanging.
The smell of alcohol was from what the criminal had been wiped with.
“We’ll be wearing aprons, but try your best to not get it dirty.”
Maomao put on the apron that was passed to her. She was also given a white triangular cloth. It wasn’t used to tie up her hair, but apparently to cover up her face below her eyes.
“I’ll be cutting. While checking which part, burn it in your eyes.” Court Physician Ryuu’s hand was grasping a scalpel for surgical use. “Do not ever forget this.”
It sounded like a threat.
They had been forbidden to take notes beforehand. Rather, what Court Physician Ryuu was about to teach them now was something that cannot be. They could only memorise it at the scene and then leave.
(Ethics or the advancement of medicine?)
The court physicians had probably compromised by not doing it in public.
The sharp scalpel sliced into the cadaver’s rounded belly. Blood didn’t gush out, but nevertheless, the flesh wasn’t hard either. They must have chosen a body that had gone past the rigour mortis stage.
The internal organs that had been slowly cut open and spread out, was a better sight compared to freshly killed livestock. However, being the body of an actual person, the vividness of it was extreme. One or two people who were used to other animals held their mouths.
“This is the heart. Don’t make the mistake of cutting the large blood vessel that connects to it.”
“Stomach, small intestine, large intestine. The organs of the digestive system. The intestines are packed in the flesh.”
They had to efficiently make practical use of the livestock.
“The organs of the reproductive system. We’ll call you immediately when there is a female criminal. It goes without saying that it will be shaped differently.”
Maomao wasn’t surprised to see male genitals now.
“Do you know what disease this guy had when he was alive?” Court Physician Ryuu raised a question.
(Even if you ask what disease.)
The body had been dead for days. It would be difficult to tell by looking at the skin colour now. She had a feeling that there were spots here and there, though.
It was the first time she looked directly at internal organs too.
If she took it upon herself to say it…
“Could it be his liver?” Maomao spoke, since no one answered. It wasn’t good to cut in, but the talks won’t progress if the question was unanswered.
“Why is that?”
“I feel that the colour of his liver is bad compared to other animals. Also, there are yellow spots on his skin. If it’s jaundice, there is a high possibility that his liver is damaged.”
The same symptoms as Yao’s.
“I’ll give you a passing mark. This guy drank too much wine and went on a rampage. He made a huge commotion at the shop, quarrelled, and killed other customers. He even killed his own mother who came in to stop him.”
Which was the reason he was hanged.
“You’ll know when you put it up next to a healthy liver, but this one is inflamed. You may think it is caused by wine, but it can occasionally be from a blood infection. So, try not to injure your hands. You’ll get sick when the toxins get into the wound.”
As he was threatening each and every one of them, even Tenyuu couldn’t crack a joke.
Maomao watched the cadaver intently, without missing the strict court physician’s voice.
When the special lesson ended, she quickly changed and headed to the bathhouse.
It was past noon. The sun was still smiling down on the earth.
The water was a little hot, but customers were few and far in-between, so it was the most blissful time for Maomao.
Since it was fine to go straight home today, she washed her hair properly as well. She wanted to wash away the gloomy air that had sunk into it.
The time you think of nothing while dazedly soaking in the tub is important.
(It’s disappointing that we couldn’t take notes, though.)
It’ll become prohibited literature if it gets written down.
(That reminds me.)
Maomao recalled the prohibited literature that Ruomen had been hiding.
(Dad had no need to write it down since he won’t forget it, and yet.)
Maomao recalled her specially capable adoptive father. If it can’t be shown to anyone, being prohibited literature, he had no need to go out of his way to preserve it.
(Did something happen in the West?)
Suddenly, her curiosity piqued.
Dad had studied abroad for many years and you can even say that he is the best doctor in the country, but he rarely talked about his past.
(It probably isn’t a good memory to be suddenly called back to his hometown and made to become a eunuch, though.)
After she let out a deep breath, some young maidens went into the bathtub.
“Hey, do you really have to take it?”
“Yup, I have to.”
What are they talking about? Maomao listened in.
“But, there aren’t any recently, right? Recruitments of palace ladies for the inner palace?”
“As I was saying. They’re currently seeking to decrease the number of people.”
(Recruitment of palace ladies for the inner palace?)
Maomao raised her eyebrows.
From the Shi Clan case, the inner palace was being downsized. If palace ladies were being newly recruited, could it be the time a new consort will be entering court?
“They say crown prince or whatever but his majesty’s imperial children are currently two male babies. There’s still a position I can go for.”
What an extremely ambitious maiden.
(It’s good to have big dreams.)
Maomao nodded, and water dripped down from her bangs.
(That reminds me.)
Jinshi was the one who had managed the inner palace. Was he still doing that?
(Then it’ll be tough.)
Maomao got up and headed to the dressing room.
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