Volume 8, Chapter 16: Selection

(Surprisingly, I was okay with it.)

Maomao almost spoke her thoughts out loud, but softly closed her mouth instead.

She washed her hands meticulously. Changed clothes.

After that, she’ll take a trip to the public bathouse paid for by her superior . That was it.

She had dissected a human body for the first time. A cadaver of a robber executed by hanging; littered with cuts all over. Some believe that by cutting up a person after death, they will go onto a different path of life.

(I have to wash my body thoroughly too.)

She sniffed her hand for any remaining stench. She thought that it would be fine if she imbued a faint incense onto her change of clothes, but—

That moment.

“Nyannyan.”

She considered responding to that address. There was only one person who would call her this. She turned around. It was Tenyuu.

“….”

Responding to him even though he had gotten her name wrong would mean that she was acknowledging it. That being said, she also had a problem with ignoring him.

(If you’re going to say something absurd, get moving.)

However, he had a reason to call her to a stop.

“Court Physician Ryuu wants to talk about something now.”

“What about the bath?” she asked.

“Leave. It. Till. Later.”

Tenyuu spoke condescendingly, but he also seemed unhappy about not being able to bathe. He was sniffing the back of his hand.

She couldn’t complain since she wasn’t the only one. Maomao decided to follow Tenyuu.

However, the other apprentice court physicians were leaving.

“What about the others?” she asked.

“They probably don’t know? They’re doing the supplementary exams.”

Upon hearing supplementary exams, she understood. While the other apprentice court physicians could dissect animals without a problem, their hands shook when it came to humans.

Were Maomao and Tenyuu the only ones who could cut unfazed?

(So this guy too, huh. I wonder how many more times he’s seen the real deal.)

Maomao sniffed her hand again.

She was led into a room with Court Physician Ryuu, her dad Ruomen, and a couple more court physicians. Chairs lined a large table used for meetings, with the head of the table situated in the centre.

(All of them are high ranking court physicians.)

They were all people with assured skill and had studied extensively.

Court physicians also have official rankings, but they are commonly referred to as high ranking, middle ranking, and apprentice.

Maomao found herself rubbing her eyes when she spotted a person among that group who was visibly merry.

The person was flapping his hands. He had round features and gentle eyes. Although the man was a eunuch, he had a moustache that resembled a loach.

“Court Physician…”

Of course, the court physician here had “inner palace” in front of his title.

It was the quack doctor.

(Why is he here? No, there can’t be a mistake in the personnel selection.)

Since he was working alone as a medical practitioner in the inner palace, even as a joke, it wouldn’t be strange for his ranking to be a high ranking court physician, even if it’s just for show.

However, he was really merry.

Among the other court physicians who possess some outstanding ability, the absentminded, piglet-like quack doctor was sitting down quietly.

(Which reminds me…)

The quack doctor was scared of touching dead bodies.

(How did he graduate from an apprentice to a court physician?)

It was too much of a mystery.

While Maomao was deep in thought, someone clapped their hands.

“Looks like everyone has gathered.” Court Physician Ryuu silenced the noisy room.

There were also a number of middle ranking court physicians who had shown up before she realised. They looked at Maomao who was more out of place than the quack doctor.

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Even if her looks weren’t outstanding, a single female among male court physicians would invariably catch people’s eyes.

“Then, I’ll begin. Feel free to sit on any empty seat.”

(Even if you tell us to sit.)

The high ranking court physicians sat down.

The middle ranking court physicians started to move.

Tenyuu, the apprentice, remained standing.

Maomao also waited for everyone to sit down.

Even if he told them feel free to sit on any seat, in the end it was in the order of hierarchy. Emergencies aside, it would be less discordant to sit in such a way in a situation like this.

Tenyuu took the lowest seat. Maomao sat on the empty seat.

(It’s still a dicey place.)

It looks like no one thought about sitting next to a high ranking court physician, so the only empty seat was beside the quack doctor. Maomao sat beside the smiling quack doctor.

“Oh maaan, long time no see. Want to eat?”

He was hiding sweets under the table.

“Not now,” she said.

There was no way she could concentrate with a sweet in her mouth. Moreover, Court Physician Ryuu was scowling. The quack hadn’t noticed that he had been noticed.

Well then, Court Physician Ryuu continued on about why they were summoned. It seems he left the quack, whose cheeks were rolling, alone for now.

“I called on you all to decide who among you will be going to the western capital.”

It was regarding what Jinshi had been discussing with Court Physician Ryuu.

About the matter where he wanted to bring court physicians along on an expedition. And how he wanted two.

Maomao had eagerly volunteered herself then. She had no idea if she ended up being chosen.

“Does anyone want to go to the western capital?”

Maomao’s hand was about to shoot up, but someone was more enthusiastic.

“Before that, a question.”

As he uttered the word question, Maomao missed the timing to raise her hand, and lowered it dejectedly.

“The requirements are much too vague. Why are we going to the western capital? Is this another way to say a demotion?”

It was a young man who was accomplished among the middle ranking court physicians. She didn’t remember his name.

(Ahh, that’s true.)

Since she was told that Jinshi will be going to the western capital, Maomao naturally thought it was an expedition. However, for people who weren’t aware of the situation, it probably won’t be different from calling it a demotion.

(No, but could it actually be a demotion?)

Demotion, no, Jinshi would say that outright, and she didn’t think it was the case.

“Ehh, is it really a demotion?” The quack doctor panicked and nudged Maomao, whispering.

(Did you not hear about it?)

He should have gotten an explanation if he were a high ranking court physician. No, he got left out since he’s a quack. Or else, did he miss out on hearing it when he was sucking on candy?

Court Physician Ryuu cleared his throat theatrically. Maomao could only ignore the quack.

“It’s not a demotion. But, it will take a long time, with the location being the location. Even by our shortest estimate, it’ll be three months away from the capital.”

“…does that mean war is starting?”

Although Court Physician Ryuu is sharp, he won’t mince matters.

Perhaps, for this reason, the surroundings were noisy. Even the quack doctor got scared. The gazes around Maomao were intense.

“Gu’en-san, ah. Please.” Dad nudged the quack doctor.

(Is Gu’en(虞淵) the quack doctor’s name?)

She only ever called him “Court Physician” when she was in the inner palace, so she never had the opportunity of hearing his name. She might have heard of it before, but honestly, it wasn’t Maomao’s forte to remember people’s names, so it can’t be helped.

(I won’t be able to forget that military official, though.)

Rikuson, who was the weirdo tactician’s subordinate. She heard that he went to the western capital, so that man was probably demoted.

Maomao was released from the quack doctor and then held down by Dad instead.

Court Physician Ryuu was already astonished and didn’t look at the quack doctor. She couldn’t help thinking that being unable to read the atmosphere was a certain kind of talent.

(Why haven’t they fired him yet?)

It was truly too mysterious.

“I have no idea about war. Our work is to heal the sick and injured. Besides, this expedition will be on a grand scale.”

The surrounding reactions weren’t really good. There probably won’t be volunteers here.

(Their behaviour might change once they hear who will be going as the core.)

Jinshi, so, the imperial clan. A court physician might have the opportunity to speak with him directly.

(However, Jinshi’s going hasn’t been announced yet…)

Considering his social status, they might be keeping quiet until the last moment.

If so, no one would raise their hand on their own volition.

Maomao was going to raise her hand, but Court Physician Ryuu glared at her.

(What was that supposed to mean?)

Was he telling her to not volunteer? Did he want to tell her that she was indeed out of her league?

“Is no one raising their hands? I thought so, so I have already decided on three candidates. I want one more person, so I’m looking for volunteers. Does no one want the last spot?”

He stirred it up, but no one reacted. As if the high ranking court physicians had already been informed about it, they looked disappointed.

“Yeeees.”

One person raised their hand. It was Tenyuu.

“If there’s no one, may I? I’m still an apprentice though.” He sounded somewhat merry. Just as usual. It was the same both when he was dissecting animals, or humans.

As he wasn’t discouraged from En’en despite her chilly reception, Maomao thought that he was quite thick-skinned, but it seems it wasn’t the case.

Tenyuu’s emotional capacity was probably considerably lower than others. He appeared emotional from an outsider’s point of view, as he was a loquacious and skilled talker, though.

He might be talking to En’en because of the coldest, fascinating reaction she had given him too.

“Anyone else?” Court Physician Ryuu asked.

No one raised their hand.

The high ranking court physicians sighed deeply.

(So long as Jinshi is going, someone from that group is probably among the candidates.)

Court Physician Ryuu was in charge, so it can’t be him. If they were going to the west, she thought it would be Dad who had in-depth knowledge of the region and also understood western languages, but Maomao shook her head.

(With his age and physical condition, it would be difficult.)

From becoming a eunuch, he looked older than he actually was. Moreover, with his missing kneecap, he wasn’t suited for long journeys.

If three people were already chosen, what about Maomao?

Many people think the western capital is remote, but it isn’t so. In truth, it is quite a developed city from the influx of western cultures. Moreover, it would be easy for new techniques on the medical side of things to come in.

Though it won’t be to the extent of Dad who had studied abroad, Maomao could learn from it.

(Is Dad not going?)

It’s impossible. It’s no good, she thought. Dad was still stuck with the quack doctor and it seemed like a hassle, but he can’t leave him.

“No one else?”

When Court Physician Ryuu confirmed, a middle ranking court physician raised his hand.

“You want to go?”

“I have a question.”

Then, the middle ranking court physician looked at Maomao. “Why is there a court lady who assists court physicians here?”

Everyone probably wanted to ask that. However, asking that here also felt like not reading the room.

“Are you telling me that she is specially here because she’s on the level of a court physician?”

(It would be nice if I am.)

Hearing the answer here was as she desired, but the atmosphere was heavy. The high ranking court physicians seemed unperturbed, perhaps having already heard it, but the middle ranking court physicians had piercing stares. Tenyuu was looking around without a change in expression.

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“She isn’t on the same level, but will be coming along.”

(I guess it’s something like that.)

She thought the treatment was appropriate. Anyway, she was happy that she could come along.

“Since you said it will be a long journey, I don’t think it’s suitable to bring a court lady along.” The middle ranking court physician flared up.

“Certainly, if you were to compare her physical strength with a man’s, but this one passed the practical skill exam. At the very least, she has the skill of a court physician. Also, her knowledge of medicine likely surpasses yours. When the medicine runs out at the destination, it is huge to be able to deal with the ingredients at the place.”

Court Physician Ryuu is strict, but he sees.

The middle ranking court physicians still looked displeased. There were also some who looked disbelieving, asking “That exam?”

“You still can’t stand that a woman is being treated the same as a court physician and taken along? It’ll be a large group this time. Court ladies from other posts will be coming along too. Is it a problem to have more helpers?”

“This is the first time we have court ladies that are exclusive to court physicians. More importantly, having her take the practical skill exam, even for Court Physician Ryuu, that’s…”

(Hm.)

His personality was the opposite of Tenyuu’s. Although he was somewhat envious, it seems he had apprehensions towards Maomao. Same goes with his words that didn’t read the atmosphere—she was thankful that he had thought about Maomao, but it was a bother.

“I wasn’t the one who decided that,” Court Physician Ryuu said a little sulkily. And then he said something dreadful.

“Grand Marshall Kan will be going this time.”

The middle ranking court physicians went noisy.

All the hairs on Maomao’s body stood on end. She looked at Dad, and he was watching her with a sad expression. Although she wasn’t En’en, her teeth started to grind audibly.

“Can you people take care of him properly?”

Court Physician Ryuu was speaking like he was in resignation, so no one objected. She was troubled over whether it was good or bad to say confidential information, but he was someone that would go either way for personnel selection.

However, Maomao didn’t have the liberty to think that deeply. Her mind instantly boiled.

(That bastard!!)

Maomao, for the first time in a long time, felt like looking at Jinshi as if he was a swollen earthworm in a puddle of water.

And on top of that.

“Departure will be in five days. I’ll give you a break to prepare, so give your greetings to the people around you.”

Maomao couldn’t close her gaped mouth.


- my thoughts:
I must say, the quack doctor has such a pretty name. It's the name of a place from Chinese legends where the sun goes when it sets.
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