“I don’t want tea,” Maomao told the attendant with the plain face.
Though it was hard to call the attendant a beauty, would it be rude to say her looks were calming on the contrary?
(There are too many beauties in the world.)
Suiren was probably quite beautiful in the past, and there was still enough traces of it.
The other attendant, who was in her forties, was a beauty despite her harsh looks.
“We can look at Suiren-sama later, so can you start the examination with me?” The attendant in her forties put out her hand.
Oh? Her face looks familiar.
If she were a little younger…
“Oh my. Is there something on my face?”
Her face reminded Maomao of a raptor.
“Maomao, Taomei(桃美) is Basen’s mum,” Suiren said.
“Mum?” Maomao said.
As Basen’s mum–
“Have you met his older sister, Maamei, by any chance?” Taomei asked.
Of who she resembled, it was Maamei. The woman who delivered the baked pastries last time. If Maamei were twenty years older, she would be a spitting image of this attendant called Taomei.
In this case, should she say I am grateful for your help? No, Basen hadn’t helped her in any way. Neither had Maamei.
No, wait, there was one person who had helped her.
“I am grateful for Gaoshun-sama’s help,” Maomao said.
That diligent man. If she is the mother of Basen and the others, that would make her Gaoshun’s wife.
(Ah, this is bad.)
There was a time she recommended prostitutes from the pleasure district to Gaoshun. That time, he had said that he was hen-pecked.
Maomao didn’t think her work was outed, but she felt kind of awkward now.
Anyway, she took the woman’s arm and read her pulse. Her pulse was normal; rather, Maomao’s heart rate was faster. The woman’s health was sound, but there was one thing that concerned Maomao. The colour of Taomei’s eyes was somewhat mismatched.
“What is it?” Taomei asked.
It looked like the movement of one of her eyes lagged behind the other by a fraction. Maomao suddenly twirled her left hand. Then she twirled her right hand, and Taomei’s gaze shifted.
(Is she blind in her right eye?)
Some people are born with different eye colours, and there are others whose eye colours can change later in life. The latter case is commonly caused by the loss of eyesight.
“Ah, are you testing out what you’ve noticed?” Taomei seemed to have noticed Maomao’s reaction. The woman pointed to her right eye. Being Gaoshun’s wife, she was quite astute.
“Excuse my rudeness. Does it get in the way of your lifestyle?” Maomao asked.
“Please don’t mind it. I’m used to it since I lost my eyesight a long time ago.”
“Alright. Then, do you have any physical abnormalities in particular?”
“I’ll be checking your eyes and tongue.” Maomao pulled down the attendant’s lower eyelid and looked at her eye. The woman was certainly blind in her right eye. Many eye diseases that cloud up the eye are due to aging. However, to have her lose her eyesight a long time ago meant that it was from injury. “Footing is unsteady on ship, so please be careful.”
Maomao reflected that she had said the obvious. Since there was no way the woman wouldn’t know.
“More importantly, did you think that there are no flowers among the prince of the moon’s attendants?” Taomei raised the question that was difficult to affirm. “Truth be told, if my daughter Maamei came, a granny like me would have no need to come.”
“Oh? If Taomei is a granny, would that make me dried goods?” Suiren suddenly retorted.
“I have three grandchildren. Treating me young is out of the question, right?”
From her direct rebuttal to Suiren’s quip, Maomao felt some strength from that woman.
It seems only a small fraction of tempered women are left around Jinshi.
Maomao quickly ended the examination and moved onto the next attendant, the young woman.
“My name is Chue(雀, que in cn).”
She had a dango-like nose and small eyes. She was also dark-skinned. It can be said that she was just like the meaning of her name, a sparrow.
(She’s not a beauty though.)
Her face gave off a sense of familiarity. Rather than serving the imperial brother, she was more suited to a vendor of a street stall.
“Chue is my son’s wife,” Taomei said.
“Son’s wife… it’s not Basen-sama, right?”
“Yes. She’s my older son’s. I want that child to get married already.” Taomei clicked her tongue.
Gaoshun’s family is close.
“While we’re at it. I’ll introduce you to my older son too.” Taomei walked briskly and came to stand before the curtain in the corner of the room. She flipped the curtains; inside was a pale man who was solving go problems.
“Wh-what is it, esteemed mother?” the pale man asked.
“Baryou, you can’t even say your greetings?”
“Ah, greetings, you say.”
The man called Baryou resembled Basen greatly. He was a little short and had a face that seemed like he hadn’t seen the sun for half a year.
“P-please to mee….. ohhh.”
Baryou crashed onto the floor, barely meeting Maomao’s gaze. He was clutching his belly. From his appearance, he looked sick, so Maomao thought it was time for work, but it seems she wasn’t needed. Chue immediately showed up and shut Baryou behind the screen again.
“Mother-in-law, he’s bothered with meeting new people if he doesn’t start with letter exchanges to get used to them first, and then have them chat with a bamboo screen between them. We don’t have enough stomach medicine for sudden face-to-face meetings.”
“That’s true. You’re skilled at handling Baryou. Rather, he’s gotten worse than before.”
Maomao witnessed an in-law relationship she had no idea how to cut into.
“Should we have left Baryou and brought Maamei instead?”
“If sister-in-law comes, who is going to look after my child?”
“That’s true. You have no intentions of raising your child.”
There were a number of things Maomao wanted to retort to, but she felt like there was no end to it.
Let’s put it together in a simple way.
Gaoshun’s wife: Taomei.
Gaoshun’s son: Baryou.
Baryou’s wife: Chue.
Alrighty. There’s no problem with this.
Should I go back now that the medical exam is up in the air, Maomao thought, when Suiren nudged her.
“What is it?” Maomao turned around, and bumped into a persistent gaze.
Jinshi was scowling from behind the folding screen.
“M-may I call you Jinshi-sama?” she asked.
“…yeah,” he replied.
It seems he had been waiting behind the folding screen the entire time. She wasn’t finished, so it seems he was looking over, but she felt his watching a medical examination of women was improper.
“Only here, is it fine to use that name.” Suiren guided Maomao to a seat. “The ship is swaying, so it’s more stable to sit.”
“Understood. But the medical examination is still…”
Suiren grinned and started to prepare tea. Maomao had said that she didn’t want it. It was the other person who did.
As it turns out, the medical exam was a cover for the main topic.
Jinshi moved over from the other side of the folding screen.
The attendants were around them, but it seems they had no intention of joining into the discussion.
By the way, there was the sound of stones from behind the curtain, so it seems Baryou had started to play go problems.
Well then, Maomao had a lot she wanted to say, but at the time, was it rude to say that she didn’t have anything to say?
It seems Jinshi, too, had no idea what to talk about.
Maomao asked, tilting her head. “May I speak first?”
“So we’ll be travelling to the western capital. How long will it take?” She understood she won’t get a clear answer, but she said it to initiate the conversation.
“I honestly have no idea. I heard that it’ll take three months at least.”
“Yes. Then, one more thing. It is about the advantages of taking me on this journey.”
“….” Jinshi averted his eyes.
(Ahhh, I knew it.)
“Did you use me as the bait for the weirdo tactician?” she asked.
“…I feel apologetic.”
Although Maomao felt like scowling at him, she bore with it since the attendants were looking at her. Instead, she waggled her finger at him, asking if there was any compensation.
Jinshi was understanding on that part. He took something out from his breast pocket. He removed the cloth. It contained a whitish-grey rock-like thing.
“Yeah. You want to check it?”
After exchanging looks with Jinshi, Suiren brought over tea along with a piece of wire. “Here you go.”
Along with the wire, there was also heated charcoal prepared.
He had said, “check”.
Maomao took the stone from Jinshi. It was a pumice stone rather than a rock. It was quite light.
“I’m going to check it,” she said.
She heated the wire with the coal and stuck it into the pumice stone. It gave off a characteristic smell.
“While I don’t think Jinshi-sama will prepare fake items, this is the real thing. It’s ambergris.”
Maomao immediately got her hands on her souvenir for the madam.
Normally, he would be grand like he was dangling a carrot before a horse, but having him give it to her this way was somewhat awkward.
No, she could only see him as a bastard from the time he made her travel with the weirdo tactician.
“Raka… no, Tactician-dono had to come on this journey no matter what,” Jinshi said.
“…is it a request from the western capital?” Maomao asked.
“There is that too. At the same time, I wanted Tactician-dono to check the western capital.”
(Is that how it is?)
The weirdo tactician is a dullard who can’t do the barest minimum as a human, but he is the best at strategising.
“I heard there might be war.” Maomao looked around.
She may be in Jinshi’s room, but she wanted to believe that it was structured so that the sound won’t escape.
“It’s not correct to win through war. It is correct to not start a war. However, what is correct is difficult.”
In other words, it seems Jinshi wanted to say that the possibility of war starting was considered.
She also understood the reason he forced court physicians to come along.
“I don’t think you can handle the weirdo tactician well by having me come along. It’s another matter with my adoptive father,” Maomao said.
If it was Ruomen, he can achieve it somehow. If Ruomen were a little younger and his leg wasn’t bad, he might be coming along as well.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t go that well, so it was the quack doctor who came.
(The quack doctor being dad’s substitute is… hm?)
Maomao suddenly recalled Jinshi’s behaviour from a moment ago. It was like he was flattering the quack doctor, to be extent that it looked shady to onlookers–
Jinshi had referred to the quack doctor’s moustache. Having been praised so much, the quack doctor would probably be shaving his facial hair for a while.
Again, he had called the quack doctor “Court Physician-dono”. There was hardly anyone on this ship who knew the quack doctor. If they knew that Maomao didn’t call the quack by his name, the quack was a mere court physician. However, they should know that he is a eunuch from his physical features.
Being called a high ranking court physician during the expedition, moreover, a eunuch. In addition, a person whom Maomao is always accompanying.
Maomao found herself slapping the table.
(No, I have to calm down a little.)
The tea was set down before her, so she drained it without asking for permission. Perhaps to calm Maomao’s emotions, it was made from herbs with a calming effect.
She breathed out and looked at Jinshi. “Are you setting up Court Physician-sama to be my adoptive father’s body double?”
“We can skip the explanations since your judgement is as good as always.”
Jinshi’s eyes were the same as the time from the inner palace.
The quack doctor and dad were both eunuchs, but their appearance and ages were different. However, the number of people who only know from rumours that he is a eunuch and a court physician could be counted on one hand. They won’t think that they would purposely bring the inner palace court physician onto the expedition.
If one were to come, they would probably think it would be Ruomen who was a former eunuch and had returned to the imperial court as a court physician.
That was the reason she wasn’t told the identities of the court physicians who had been picked until the very end.
“The western capital, no, Gyoku’en-dono had probed whether Ruomen-dono will be brought along as well. Do you know what that is supposed to mean?” Jinshi asked.
“By Gyoku’en-dono… wouldn’t that mean he has sick people?” Maomao replied.
Ruomen’s medical skill is a cut above the rest. There are a lot of sick people who would want to hire him.
“He might, be planning to win over the Tactician-dono, is what I think. Of course, I didn’t give a clear reply, so it is the other side’s situation where they mistake Court Physician-dono as Ruomen-dono.”
From his use of “I” (watashi), the Jinshi here wasn’t the usual disappointing man, but the imperial brother. The smart man who uses people as pawns is present.
“Winning over, you say. It’s more constructive to tell the fox your plans. Moreover, it’s Gyokuyou’s older brother, right?” Maomao said.
“There are many people who believe that they can achieve what others can’t. Besides, there are cases where they have no other options. It’s impossible for the relatives of a saint to be all saints. Moreover, it’s not unusual for the empress’s kin to ruin a country.”
“…am I allowed to hear this?”
“I’m not asserting this. It’s just a possibility.”
(No, but you’re suspecting it, right?)
That being said, not saying anything in itself is also vague.
Jinshi raised an index finger as he grasped his teacup. His finger was pointing at Maomao.
“In the case he has no options, who will he target?” he asked.
“Me, being the weakness?” Maomao said.
“It’s a weakness no matter how you see it. By Gyoku’ou’s side is Tactician-dono’s former adjutant.”
(Is this about Rikuson?)
“There’s no way he doesn’t know about you.”
(…he’s in a position where if he’s asked he has to speak, huh.)
She understood Jinshi’s unreasonable choice of people for the expedition a bit more.
“Did you think I would be targeted if I stay in the capital?” she asked.
“There is a possibility. Additionally, how many enemies does Tactician-dono have?”
“You probably know of their existence so long as you think about yourself, and you are not a moron who overlooks that.”
Maomao could only nod at Jinshi’s words. She should have thought more before she became a court physician assistant.
It was Jinshi who encouraged her to become one, but if the weirdo tactician hadn’t taken such an extreme attitude, she would have attained a more tranquil lifestyle. There’s no point in lamenting about the past.
“Rahan can take care of himself, so I had him stay in the capital. I had Ruomen-dono disappear by staying in the inner palace for a short while. My bad to you, but you’ll be taken to the western capital. More importantly, I felt that it was safer to keep you where Tactician-dono can keep an eye on you. It’ll be hard to say that it’ll be peaceful.”
“Is that so.”
Maomao’s thoughts were all jumbled, but she had considered what Jinshi said. No doubt he had thought about human relationships, the stationing of personnel, and above all, the most efficient safety.
“For the Court Physician-dono, I’ll give you the military official who is your old acquaintance, Rihaku,” Jinshi said.
“Yes,” Maomao replied coldly. She looked at the ambergris she was given in a daze.
(I’m not really satisfied.)
Maomao stood up without taking the tea snacks.
“Maomao, won’t you take some pastries back with you?” Suiren wrapped up the baked pastries for her. Maomao felt the attendant had read her feelings.
(The quack will be happy.)
“Thanks for the food.” After accepting the package of pastries, Maomao bowed her head and left the room.
“Ah, umm…” Jinshi reached forward, looking like he wanted to talk with Maomao, but she honestly wasn’t in the mood today, having already spoken enough.
Pretending to have not noticed, she went out.
Basen seemed to be standing guard outside the room, but she decided to simply bow her head and return to the medical office.