Departure was in five days.
As it was sudden, Maomao had to rush her preparations. Along with stocking up on things, she had to go around talking to various people.
(No, is this expedition something I should talk freely about?)
So she had wondered, but it didn’t seem to be a problem as the notice had already gone around.
(I absolutely have to tell the madam.)
Otherwise, she’ll get punched in the belly again.
And for that reason, she went to Rokushoukan.
“Hmmm, is that so. Ya can get me ambergris as a souvenir,” the madam said.
(T/N: 龍涎香, ryuuzenkou, Long Xian Xiang, lit. dragon saliva perfume. Some substance that is found in the digestive system of the sperm whale.)
(No, that’s unfeasible.)
As the name suggests, it’s a perfume made from the saliva of dragons, but it was apparently something else in truth. Very expensive. It’s even used as a medicine, beneficial to the heart.
“OI, AGAIN? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? DO COURT LADIES EVEN GO ON EXPEDITIONS?”
Well, the one yelling was Sazen. He was complaining with tears in his eyes.
“My bad. You can do something about it. Kokuyou is here too, and if there’s anything, you can contact Dad,” Maomao said, ending it by passing him a paper with a signature.
Sazen reluctantly returned to the pharmacy as a customer had arrived.
(He’s more capable than he believes himself to be, though.)
He’s quite the worrywart.
“Oh my my. If you’re talking about the west, sunburns are terrible there.” The elder sister of Rokushoukan, Pairin, reacted calmly. Her skin was extremely glossy today.
(Did an honoured customer come in yesterday?)
For this older sister whose sexual appetite was overly excessive, an honoured guest wasn’t just someone who was well-paying. It must have been a gentleman with peerless muscles.
“Yes. This will be indispensable. Apply this every day when you wake up and wash it off before you sleep.” Meimei placed down a ceramic container. It probably contained cream that was good for the skin.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to wash my face,” Maomao said.
The road to the western capital was long. Even by land or sea, there might not be enough water.
“What moron would take Maomao to such a place?”
(‘Tis the masked noble you know every well.)
Joka was the one who had said those biting words.
The Three Princesses have all assembled.
“I’m worried, Maomaoo. Can’t you quit now?” Pairin-neechan hugged her tightly. Her body temperature was feverish, as if she had gotten really good exercise last night.
“The money we desperately earned is used by the bigshots for travel, huh,” Joka spat out.
“What are you talking about? Isn’t it because of those bigshots that our business is viable?” Meimei smiled brightly. Her words were heartless.
“Besides, I am worried though…” Meimei looked out the window. “If there’s a person who can increase the degree of danger to Maomao, it would have to be the unforgivable person who is going, right?”
“Meimei-neechan. I’m saying it indirectly, but that is actually my greatest anxiety.”
It was about the weirdo tactician’s going.
Maomao had no idea about the reason why he was going. At least, if the western capital was aware of the kind of person he was, they would probably decline.
(A reason they can’t decline? There’s no way they invited him.)
For the weirdo tactician, even if he doesn’t do a couple of months of work, his subordinates will do it so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Above all, the scary part was whether he would cause trouble in the middle of the trip.
Just the act of imagining it hurt her head.
(Did he use me basing it on this?)
Her teeth ended up grinding audibly. Maomao, who had forgotten she was once used for anything, was sorry.
To say it from another perspective, she was also a little relieved that she was being treated as how she was from the time she was in the inner palace.
A person who stands on top cannot be swayed by emotions.
Jinshi’s actions were emotionally fuelled at times, but she believed there was some reasoning in them. She wanted to believe.
(I guess so?)
If not, she couldn’t understand his overly strange selection of people.
From the start, the personnel selection wasn’t what Jinshi had chosen, but might have been something he had done out of the lack of other options.
Either way, it was a bother to Maomao.
Maomao packed away the cream she got from Meimei.
“Oi, Freckles.” A cheeky voice.
“What is it, Chou’u?” Maomao turned around in annoyance.
He left after saying just that.
His follower, Zuurin also stuck out her tongue and trailed after Chou’u.
“What was that?” Maomao said.
“Maomao. As we already told you, Chou’u is feeling lonely,” Meimei said.
“Hmmm. Is Zuurin is sticking close to Chou’u, as usual too?”
“She started again recently.” Meimei looked troubled.
“Started again?” Maomao asked.
“That child has an older sister, right? That older sister was training as a kamuro, but she started to take customers this year.”
“Is that so?” A lot of women come in and out of Rokushoukan, so Maomao didn’t check every one of them. “Isn’t it still early for her?”
“She’s fifteen. She filled up nicely when she could eat, and a regular customer was dumbfounded when he saw her. Before she came here, she must have not eaten any good food.”
The girl was also ambitious, so it seems she wanted to debut early.
Her younger sister must feel complicated.
“Her skill is not quite there yet, but it seems she’ll grow, that child.”
“You think so? I have doubts that she’ll get a little too edgy though.”
Joka was the one who said that last bit, so Pairin burst out laughing.
“You’re not one to say, when you have ‘Joka’ as your name—”
It wasn’t the name her parent gave her in the beginning. The madam does give names to throw away the past, but Joka had named herself by parodying the name of the creation goddess.
“My mother had said that my father was a noble, so I have a right to use it.” Or so Joka had said.
(To think the partner is someone who can use the Ka character.)
He could only be royalty. If so, the father could only match the age of the late emperor, but Maomao knew that was entirely impossible.
(T/N: fyi, Joka is 女華, and ka 華 is the character exclusive to the imperial clan. So officially, only Jinshi and the emperor are allowed to have that character in their name at the moment.)
She wondered how Joka-neechan felt about her mother who got tricked. She couldn’t help thinking that the courtesan’s man-hating trait had originated from there.
With the madam being how she is, she allowed that edgy name.
Maomao sighed deeply and headed for the next thing she had to prepare.
After leaving Rokushoukan, she finished her shopping and returned to the dorms.
(This now might be the greatest problem.)
Maomao took a deep breath and entered the dorm.
Chop Chop Chop. The sound of a kitchen knife resounded.
(They’re doing it.)
Maomao peered into the kitchen.
Yao was chopping chicken, under En’en’s guidance.
Although Yao’s hand was still shaky, she didn’t apply the force that could sever bone the other day. It looked like she was cooking properly
Yao, who was concentrated on the chicken, didn’t notice Maomao. En’en did, and was complaining to Maomao with her eyes.
(She’s concentrating now. Don’t get in the way, is that what En’en means?)
Maomao headed to her room, and as she going down the corridor, the old lady of the dorm came up to her.
“Maomao, how many months will the expedition be? You can keep the room as it is, but would it be better to clean it?”
Sounds travel. Of course, as if it reached the kitchen, “Ouch!”, “Milady!” Maomao heard the promised exchange.
When she checked through the gap of the door, a spectacle she expected filled her vision.
“Ahh, Milady, this can’t do. Please stop sucking your finger. I’ll treat it now.”
Even for foodstuff, there could be toxins and parasites present in raw meat.
“En’en, I think you overdid it,” Maomao called out when Yao was rendered immobile by the bandage wrapped around her hand.
However, when she did so, Yao frowned. Maomao realised that Yao looked like she wanted to say something, but Maomao wasn’t skilled at human relationships either. Maomao had no idea if it was a good idea for her to call out to them.
While Yao was still learning how to use the knife, she probably hasn’t been called by Court Physician Ryuu to take a special class.
“…I’m sorry. I’ll be away for a while,” Maomao said.
“I understand.” En’en looked a little lonely, but in an instant, an inexplicable “Now I can be alone with Yao-sama” face appeared. It was good that Yao, who was facing down, hadn’t seen that.
Maomao thought that Yao would understand too. The girl was smart. She understood mentally; it was just that her feelings hadn’t caught up.
(She’s still sixteen.)
Four years younger than Maomao.
Maomao was going to head to her room, out of things to do, when she heard the girl stamp her feet loudly.
Yao breathed roughly through her nose like a boar. The girl got up and made a face that looked like she made some resolutions.
“Milady.” En’en was holding two fans, wherever she had taken them out from, that was written with ‘Yao’, “Add oil’. This attendant was somewhat meticulous.
Yao took another deep breath and stood before Maomao.
“Yes, Milady.” En’en gingerly passed something that looked like a booklet to Yao.
“Mn.” Yao pushed the booklet onto Maomao.
“Wh-what is this?” Maomao asked.
“Wh-what, you say,” Yao said.
En’en supported Yao who couldn’t speak out about it properly. “We summarised the main points of the books that Maomao didn’t get to transcribe when we were at Rakan-sama’s residence the other day.”
(What’s that, I want.)
“C-can you give it to me?” Maomao asked.
“D-didn’t I tell you that I’m giving it to you!” Although Yao had been muttering, she hadn’t said that.
But, if she was giving, Maomao will take it. She quickly flipped through the pages to check.
“Hey, don’t look at it now! I-I’m telling you this in advance; it’s nothing major. It’s just that En’en really wanted to transcribe it for you!” Yao said.
What to do? This child went tsun, then dere.
Unfortunately, Maomao could tell the differences between Yao and En’en’s handwriting, so Maomao was kind enough to not point out who had written it.
“Thank you very much.” Maomao courteously bowed her head
Honestly, she was so happy her nose was running.
“…hmph. Use it to kill time when you’re travelling.”
Apparently, it’s a gift.
“Then, I’ll buy you souvenirs in return,” Maomao said.
“I don’t need that!’ Sullen, Yao went back to the chopping board.
“You’re injured, so you can’t cut anything now. Let’s treat your wound for the time being,” Maomao said.
Yao was going to turn into a mummy if they left the wound treatment to En’en alone.
The girl meekly let Maomao treat her wound, but En’en was a little scary.
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