Volume 8, Chapter 19: Life on the Ship (1)

The ships left the harbour following the ending of what appeared to be a departure ceremony. The bigshots, mainly Jinshi, had been carrying out some sort of ritual-like ceremony, but Maomao had only spectated absentmindedly. The weirdo tactician would look around restlessly every now and then, so she went down to the cabins midway.

While it was hard to say that the voyage will be pleasant, it was a whole lot more decent than she had imagined it to be.

 (I’ve heard from a story that they bit into bug-infested bread and stuff in the past.)

And how for that reason, raw fish is kept to first lure out the bugs before the bread is eaten.

Maomao ate both locusts and snakes, but she couldn’t imagine voluntarily eating bug-infested bread.

 (Well, it’s not like it’s going to be that long of a journey.)

While it felt long for Maomao, they won’t be staying on the ship for months on end. Apparently, it will take about half a month and they will be stopping at a number of ports. Their very first meal on the ship was meat rice dumplings, fish soup, and mandarins. Maybe because it was the first day, it was a little extravagant.

 “I’m happy that we even have fruit.” The quack doctor smiled while he peeled a mandarin and ate it.

Maomao had already finished eating a long time ago. She was brushing her teeth with a toothbrush(房楊枝).

Maomao had an idea why they were served mandarins. “It seems there will be a shortage of vegetables during the voyage.”

“That’s true. They won’t last on board,” the quack agreed.

“You’ll get sick easily when you’re deficient in nutrients.”

“Yup, yup. We have to eat so we don’t get deficiencies.”

Does the quack understand her or not?

“Even so, we have free time. There aren’t any patients,” the quack said.

(No, it’s always been like this when we were at the inner palace.)

As she retorted inwardly, she rinsed her mouth with water and spat it out the window. She would be told off for being indecent, but since the ocean was outside, it was quick and easy.

“If there’s no one hurt or sick,  it’s better we don’t have that.” Maomao glanced at the shelf in the medical office. Although the stock was limited, there was a considerable amount of medicine. A lot of them were medicinal herbs that were prescribed for basic illnesses and those specific to ships. Next were topical medicine for surgeries.

Maomao stared at the quack doctor. “May I ask a question?”

She had always been curious about this.

 “Last time, it looked like Court Physician-sama found it hard to look at dead bodies, so how did you pass the exam?”

“The exam? Yeah, I passed the court physician exam fair and square.” The quack doctor huffed and clapped his chest.

Maomao faced him with dull eyes. “Umm, by the exam, do you mean the written one?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Eunuchs were allowed to take the court physician exam as there were no court physicians in the inner palace. I was the only one who passed,” the quack doctor boasted.

Eunuchs are said to be people who failed at becoming civil officials or military officials. A lot of them were slaves who got castrated for being from a different race. Honestly, she understood why the eunuchs, who took the exam, had failed it.

She didn’t think that court physicians would want to become eunuchs just to work in the inner palace. And so, they had eunuchs become court physicians, but her assumption was totally off the mark.

 “And then, what about the practical exam?” she asked.

“Eh, practical? Umm, I feel like there was something like that… that reminds me, there was a time they made me dissect a chicken.”

“And then?”

“Yeah, it was troubling that time. I fainted when I tried to strangle the chicken and it hit me square in the forehead.”

“…”

What is this? She could easily imagine it.

“They also summoned me to dissect a pig, but when it looked at me with such teary eyes, I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” the quack said.

It goes without saying.

It was scary that she could imagine it so easily.

“…is that so?” Maomao said.

The high officials probably gave up on making the quack doctor an actual court physician at this point. It felt like they gave him the position only because there was no other way for them to look after the consorts of the inner palace, however.

“Were there no other eunuchs becoming court physicians after that?” She thought there would be more decent people who could become court physicians if they hold the exam a couple of times.

“About that, you see. The empress dowager had built a place to assemble the palace ladies of the inner palace, you remember?” the quack said.

“There was.”

It was the place that assembled the concubines of the late emperor. Apparently, the place was built to protect the girls who can’t leave the inner palace, but in the end, it was used during the Shi Clan rebellion.

“While there were no court physicians, they created a clinic. I was treated as an eyesore when I entered the medical office, and they strongly opposed against choosing new court physicians from among the eunuchs.”

“Ahhh.” It was as she guessed. They possessed much more medical knowledge than the inferior quack doctor.

“They opposed it, saying that new inner palace court physicians are unneeded, so in the end, the talks about having eunuchs become court physicians turned into a compromise.”

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And so, the only court physician in the inner palace was the quack.

(This person is only alive through luck.)

She thought about having him draw the lottery next.

“Was it Shenryu-san? That person was in the middle of it all…” The quack stared off into the distance.

If Maomao remembered properly, that was the middle-aged woman from the clinic that gathered the palace ladies. She heard the woman had conspired with Shisui’s group—the Shi Clan—and assisted with the consort’s escape from the inner palace. The woman had even planned to commit suicide when she was interrogated, but Maomao hadn’t heard any news regarding the woman following that.

(Dead or alive, she can’t avoid execution.)

They must have judged that there was no need for her to speak.

After the quack also finished brushing his teeth, he started to prepare the medical equipment. “Well then, a doctor’s visit once a day. It’s scheduled to be after meals.”

Speaking of whose, it was probably the bigshot.

“Hyaaah. I’m so nervous. I haven’t seen Jinshi-sama, no, the Prince of the Moon in so long.”

“I guess.”

The quack’s face had turned bright red even when Jinshi interacted with him as a eunuch.

(Uhmm.)

For the time being, Maomao will be coming along, but she was feeling somewhat complicated.

 

 

 

 

Jinshi’s room was, compared to the other cabins, impossibly extravagant.

(Good ventilation. Spacious room too. Bright.)

Of course, it had the conditions attached with being at the top of the ship, but if it was this splendid, it must be comfortable—she thought as she studied the room she walked into.

“Come, this way.”

The composed voice of a woman.

(Voyages would be harsh for her age, and yet.)

However, the personnel selection suggested that there was no one else. It was the elderly attendant, Suiren.

With a prim look, Suiren let the quack doctor into the room, but the instant her eyes met with Maomao’s, her lips twisted into a smile.

(Much appreciated for the good work.)

There were two other attendants.

They gave the quack a cursory glance, then studied Maomao.

(As expected, he picked reliable people.)

Maomao felt that they grasped the situation with just a look. From their not suddenly baring their hostility alone, she felt an immensely favourable impression.

Was one of them in her forties? From her age, she might have been Jinshi’s wet nurse.

Was the other in her early twenties? She didn’t look much older than Maomao, but she was strangely serene. Honestly, it was difficult to classify her appearance as a beauty, but it can be said that her face was conversely calming among the commonplace beauties around Jinshi.

(She must be capable.)

For the imperial brother’s attendants, their faces were quite plain, but it was so much like JInshi. If En’en continued to remain by Jinshi’s side, would she be coming along on the voyage? Maomao thought as she went inside.

“E-excyuse meh.” The quack doctor immediately fumbled his words.

On the other side of the folding screen, awaited Jinshi on a chair. He had changed from what he had worn for his ritual and was now in relatively easy-to-move-in clothes.

“It’s been a while, Court Physician-dono. I’ll leave it to you now.” Jinshi put out his arm. Although the room smelled like incense, Jinshi seemed to be the greatest source of it.

Before the quack doctor, the sparkling Jinshi from his time in the inner palace was in full force.

(Even if this wasn’t the quack doctor, they’d be nervous.)

“Yesh,” the quack said.

Maomao looked to the side, thinking that his loach moustache would be quivering if he still had them.

Though it was called a doctor’s visit, it seemed it was just to ask questions and to check his pulse.

(They don’t have much expectation towards the quack, huh.)

Suiren seemed quite practised, so even if there wasn’t the quack’s doctor’s visit, health management would be sound.

For now, Maomao looked around to see if there wasn’t anything strange.

“N-no problems in particyular.” The quack doctor fumbled at the end.

“Excuse me. I’ll leave it to you every day from now on,” Jinshi said.

“Yesh.” The quack doctor packed away the tools he usually brought but never used.

Jinshi looked at the quack doctor again. When the quack doctor looked up, his sparkles intensified.

(What, is, this?)

“Court Physician-dono. You shaved your moustache. It suits you.”

The quack doctor’s heart thumped. She could see something warm and fluffy around him.

“I feel apologetic to have made Court Physician-dono come on this expedition when you’re supposed to be an inner palace court physician. However, this is an important duty. I’ll be delighted if you can accompany me all the way to the end.”

“O-of course.” The quack’s eyes dampened. He looked like he trusted Jinshi with all his heart.

It looked like nothing but a farce to Maomao. The attendants with Suiren included also turned apathetic. However, it was more important to have the quack believe in it.

“The fact that Court Physician-dono is a eunuch is known by everyone. I want you to tell me if you have any drawbacks by being a eunuch.”

“Y-yes.” The quack’s eyes welled up with tears. His cheeks were flushed and there were roses on his back.

“Also…” With sad eyes, Jinshi glanced at the quack doctor.

Maomao narrowed her eyes. Can we just end this farce already? she thought.

“Court Physician-dono’s name is Gu’en, correct?”

“Y-yes.”

(So that’s his name.)

“There is one court physician on this ship. May I call you not by your name, but by your title “Court Physician-dono”?” Jinshi asked.

“T-that would be an honour.” The quack didn’t object. Rather, it sounded like he was saying, “Please call me that.”

(No matter how I see it, it feels like he has an ulterior motive.)

“Hey, I have a request.”

When the quack finished clearing away the equipment, Suiren called out to him.

“Can you look at us every day as well? So we don’t trouble Court Physician-sama, we wish to have your assistant.”

(Ahh, I didn’t see that coming.)

Maomao glanced at the quack doctor.

“I think Court Physician-sama will be busy, so please, you may leave first.”

“Understood.” The quack doctor spoke to Suiren without fumbling. “Then, Lass. I’ll leave the rest to you.”

“Understood,” Maomao replied in monotone.

She sent the quack doctor off, and when she turned around, Jinshi was there with a gloomy air.

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When Maomao snorted, Suiren immediately batted her.

- my thoughts:
"Batted" like how a cat does it, fyi
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