Volume 8, Chapter 3: The Missing Numbers Former Part

Books are things that need maintenance. Maomao was absorbedly copying from the silverfish damaged book laid open in front of her.

Due to humidity and sun damage, some of the old books had smudged letterings, and some were crinkly from the elements. Instead of wooden slips, many of the books were made from paper. Must be because wooden slips would just take up space in the room. Thanks to that, with the books written on poor quality paper, Maomao had no choice but to transcribe them.

“Maomao, are you going to eat?”

En’en came over.

“No need.”

Reading the books takes precedence.

(There’s no need for this description.)

Dad had written many study books for Maomao to study. However, he didn’t copy all the books; Maomao had never seen many of the descriptions here. She knew from the handwriting that it was her Dad’s, but the contents were written in finer detail.

Some things Maomao had already learnt, some she hadn’t, and some where the descriptions have changed

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Due to technological advances, many of the things previously considered to be correct were found to be wrong. This room was probably last used around twenty years ago. At the very least, Dad would have gained better medical knowledge during those twenty or more years.

With a brush in mouth, she turned the page. Knowledge is sustenance. She has no need for food while she’s concentrating—but…

“DINNER TIME!”

Yao had yelled into her ear. If Maomao were a cat, her fur would be standing on end.

“No nee…”

“You’re eating.” Yao’s eyes were glazed over, showing no signs of listening to Maomao. Yao grabbed Maomao’s collar and pulled at it. Maomao tried to take the book she was reading along with her, but it was also taken off her.

“En’en, make Maomao eat too.”

“I’m sorry, milady. I thought it’d be rude to disturb Maomao while she’s concentrating. Besides, it’d also be nice with just the two of us once in a while,” En’en said.

(The latter is obviously the main reason.)

Maomao heard En’en click her tongue. En’en’s cooking is delicious, and recently she had been treating herself to it every time.

“It won’t just be the two of us. When En’en went to get food supplies, Rahan-san came over,” Yao said.

“M-Milady? I didn’t hear about that.” En’en’s face stiffened. Was she shocked that Yao had been chatting on her own with a male stranger?

As for Yao, she wasn’t fussed. If anything, she tends to become irritable in not wanting to lose to men at work, but she doesn’t seem to mind Rahan. All in all, she might be used to him coming over each time with odd jobs.

“I thought he called you since the servant said that she made sure to hand over four people’s share of ingredients.” Yao gestured to the dishes on the round table. It was much too excessive for two people, and it was also a little too much for three. There were four chairs at the table.

The main dish at the centre was a glistening roast duck.

Maomao found herself swallowing down her saliva.

“…I’m going to cook some more pancakes. Maomao, please help me chop the vegetables.” En’en was a little peeved.

“I’ll help too,” Yao said.

“No, milady. It’ll be done soon.” En’en primly turned down Yao’s offer.

(Ahhhh.)

Yao’s expression fell.

Maomao knew that En’en lived for her young lady, but strangely enough, she didn’t understand her young lady’s feelings. It was probably because they were so close.

Maomao sliced up the shallots and plated them. She wrapped the duck meat and aromatics up in a pancake, dipped it in sauce and ate it in one mouthful.

She had to thank Yao for interrupting her reading.

It seems that the tableware had already been prepared in the kitchen from the start. They all came in sets of four.

Maomao narrowed her eyes at the plates.

“When you squint your eyes like that, you look like Rahan-sama.”

Maomao widened her eyes at En’en’s words. “We’re strangers so there shouldn’t be any resemblance,” she said starkly.

There was probably enough congee prepared for supper as well, so there’s no need to add more.

As for the after meal dessert, seeing how there were only three prepared to begin with, it was set up for them to eat after Rahan leaves.

“I’m just asking but, don’t you think it’s safe for you to leave the estate now?” Maomao asked the over-protective attendant.

“Didn’t I say that wasn’t an issue? More importantly, Yao-sama is on board with it,” En’en replied.

“I don’t understand that part.”

“Milady is a bright child, so those from the same generation were nothing but idiots.”

En’en steadily grilled pancakes as she spoke clearly and plainly. Maomao placed them on the plate, cooling them so they won’t stick together.

“She works hard at her studies, avowing not to lose against men. So when she lost to Maomao fair and square in the entrance exam, she became very mortified and acted out of character.”

Making Maomao fall over and harassing her, was it? In any case, it was mostly the followers so she couldn’t care less.

“She had done something bad.”

There’s no way she thought she could earn good marks by doing so.

“Although her uncle is the root cause of that, why does Yao-san want to succeed so badly?” Maomao suddenly tried asking.

“…it’s because of Yao-sama’s mother,” En’en said, after some hesitation. “To Yao-sama, her mother is as good as dead. She lost her the same time the master passed away.”

“Why?” Maomao didn’t have many feelings towards her own mother either. However, the circumstances of her upbringing were different to Yao’s.

“After the master’s passing, you know what’s expected of the lady who’s unable to manage the residence by herself, right?” En’en said.

“She’s passed down to the uncle.”

“And so, the lady remains the lady.”

The master’s wife is the lady.

Yao’s mother probably remarried the uncle. It wasn’t that unusual of a story, but for the daughter, it was probably complicated and would occasionally make her an object of disgust.

“Is that so?” Maomao gave a single line in response, the plate of vegetables and pancakes in hand.

 .

 .

 .

“Maaan, thanks for the invite.”

Approaching with a grin, was the small, bespectacled man with an aggravating mind.

(You weren’t invited.)

Maomao and En’en’s hearts were probably in agreement on this. He courteously brought a gift with him, but for some reason, it was hasma. Although it’s Yao’s favourite, it was really extravagant.

By the way, when Yao tried to check what it was, En’en quickly hid it away. Milady still doesn’t know that her favourite food is frog.

(He earned a lot from the Go tournament the other day, huh.)

It seemed he also ran a sweet potato business, but he had other core businesses to attend to as well. Even if he cloned himself, it won’t be enough, yet his ability to handle them all with ease was, begrudgingly, praiseworthy.

“I’m so happy to eat while surrounded by flowers. There’s a rose, an iris, and a wood sorrel,” Rahan said.

No need to say who the wood sorrel referred to.

“I’ve heard many rumours about Miss En’en’s cooking. I wanted to try it out once.”

“My.” En’en’s expression was icy. But it was admirable that she didn’t forget about serving.

(A rumour about En’en’s cooking. Where did he hear that from?)

Maomao’s question was quickly answered.

“The older brother’s shop is popular and the younger sister’s cooking is also second to none, I’ve heard,” he said.

“Yes. En’en’s cooking is delicious. To the point where she won’t lose to the head chef.” Yao handed out high praises extremely naturally.

Before, Maomao heard that En’en’s brother had been saved by Yao. He should be working for Yao’s family, but it seemed he went independent afterwards.

(Due to the change in family head?)

She felt that she had found another reason behind En’en’s bad impression of Yao’s uncle.

“I ate at the older brother’s restaurant three times, but maaaaan, this cooking is delicious too.”

“Three times? During which season did you go? The menu changes every season, right, En’en?” 

“Yes, he cooks with seasonal ingredients prepared every month.”

When the topic about En’en’s brother was brought up, Yao bit at it. En’en also joined the conversation.

Maomao was enjoying the crispiness of the duck skin. The greasy skin and flavour of the aromatics are trapped within the pancake. You eat it after dipping it in the salty-sweet sauce. The umami and aroma of the meat, the texture of the vegetables, and the simple pancake, all exquisitely blended to invite salivation with every bite.

To express it in one word, it’s delicious.

“Maaaan, this is truly delicious.”

Rahan held the same opinion.

Rahan has another trait that was worth praising. He is good at making conversation. If she had to say it, as he was able to get the shy Yao to speak openly, Maomao felt she understood why En’en was a little annoyed.

While eating in silence, Maomao became full. Since there were no longer plans to serve dim sum, she kept glancing at the direction of the room with the bookshelf, wondering if it’s okay to go read already.

“Maomao, don’t say that you want to hurry back to read, okay?” Yao scowled at Maomao. Apparently, despite not joining the conversation, she managed to give things away.

“….” Maomao sat quietly, eating scallions to kill time.

(That reminds me.)

There was one thing about the arrangement of the bookshelf that bothered her.

“Rahan, were any of the books from the bookshelf taken someplace else?” Maomao asked.

“Books from the bookshelf?” Rahan tilted his head. “I have no idea. Esteemed father won’t do anything to Great Uncle’s things. In fact, we only have the servants clean the room periodically.”

For the weirdo tactician, it was an unprecedented worry. Indeed, she had thought that this outbuilding was cleaned.

“Are you saying that there are gaps in the books? If so, the cleaning servants would get suspicious, but I don’t think Esteemed father would employ strange individuals in the first place. Since it’s truly troublesome to have that person as an enemy.”

Books, being valuable items, can be stolen, but would the servants working at the weirdo tactician’s place go that far?

(This is hard.)

“What is missing?” Yao asked.

“I’m a little bothered about what it could be, but.” Maomao left her seat and returned with two books from the bookshelf, as well as paper and stationary she used for transcribing. “Please check the spine.”

“What’s this?” Yao tilted her head.

[ ―Ⅵ―]

[ 四―Ⅱ―]

…it wrote. In other words, the first part of the sixth section of the third volume. She didn’t understand it, but the number went up every time there was a postscript in each section, so it was finely divided.

At least several hundred books on the bottom shelf were also numbered in this manner.

“I can read the first number, but…”

“They’re western numbers,” En’en answered, knowing a smattering of western words.

“Yes.” Maomao wrote the numbers down on the paper.

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

[ Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ, Ⅴ, Ⅵ, Ⅶ, Ⅷ, ]

(T/N: and for those who are unfamiliar with eastern numbers: 一二三四五六七八九)

Upon hearing “numbers”, Rahan’s eyes shone.

Yao gave a start at the paper written with [Ⅰ, Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ, Ⅴ, Ⅵ, Ⅶ, Ⅷ, Ⅸ].

“Could the next number be []?” Yao traced it out on the table.

“Correct. As expected of milady.” En’en answered in Maomao’s stead.

“Dad numbered each book properly. But there are gaps in the first and second volumes,” Maomao said.

“Is that so,” Rahan said.

“You love numbers, so I thought you would have noticed it at once.”

“Unfortunately I hardly come to this outbuilding. I’m busy, you see.”

“Then f*cking quit eating here so casually.” Maomao accidentally blurted out her real intention.

“Maomao, please don’t use such vulgar language before Yao-sama.” En’en cut in with her educational guidance.

“The numbering is for systematic labelling, right?”

“Yes. The first and second volume are about the fundamentals. The first volume is about human anatomy, and the second about surgical procedures.” Maomao’s field of expertise is herbal medicine, but she wanted to understand it from the perspective of healing people.

“Unfortunately, I have no idea, but I’m curious. I’ll try asking the servants too.” Rahan rose up from his seat while pushing up his glasses. His plate was cleaned. He seemed satisfied. “I have some work tomorrow, so if there’s anything, call someone.”

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“Understood,” En’en replied curtly.

“Thanks for the food, it was extremely delicious. You must be tired. You can leave the tableware as it is, I’ll call for the servants,” Rahan said.

Maomao intended to clear the table as well, but if it’s fine to leave it, then all the better. She wanted to quickly get back to copying the books.

She wanted to head back to the room with the bookshelf as soon as Rahan leaves, but her shoulders were grabbed. “What is it?”

“There’s still dim sum.” Yao smiled to say I won’t let you escape.

- my thoughts:
For those wondering about the roast duck dish, it's peking duck!
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