(Two books, I think?)
Maomao noted down the numbering of the missing books. Two volumes clearly appear to be missing.
“Hm.” Maomao leaned her head against the table. Today was another day of transcribing books. She considered pulling an all-nighter last night, but was forcefully dragged off to bed by Yao and En’en. Supposedly, staying up late is bad for one’s skin.
Most of the books were penned by Dad, and contained much of the knowledge from his time in the West. The texts were intermingled with foreign languages from various regions; some of which even Maomao was unfamiliar with. Even En’en, when asked, didn’t understand many of the spelling, so Maomao assumed they were technical terms that couldn’t be translated into the Rii language.
She wanted to read them all but there was no time. She was told the weirdo tactician will be back tomorrow, so she wanted to copy everything she wanted to copy, but that was probably impossible. In that case, she would like to get extracts from important sections if possible.
“Maomao, please don’t cram too much.”
En’en came in with a vegetable in hand. Yesterday’s was extravagant, so today’s will be quick and easy, she had said. She was probably thinking about Yao’s meals.
“Worry not,” Maomao said.
“Yao-sama is copying you.”
She wasn’t worried for Maomao. En’en was operating as usual.
“And where did this Yao-san go?” Maomao had a feeling that Yao had been reading books with her throughout the morning, only to disappear halfway. Although Yao had said that she had no intention of leaving the weirdo tactician’s residence during the holiday break since she didn’t want to run into her uncle. “Looks like she took some books with her, so I want them returned soon.”
“They’re not Maomao’s books, right? Milady is upstairs.”
“…it’s wasteful when no one reads them.”
At this rate, if all that awaits these books is weathering by the elements, no one would mind to her taking over the entire library, right? However, there was nowhere to store them. It will never make it into the dorms, and if she left them at the dilapidated shack in the pleasure district, Dad will find out when he comes home.
Dad taught Maomao a lot of medical knowledge, but he had drawn a line somewhere. He was pleased about her becoming a herbalist, but he forbade her from becoming a doctor since he didn’t want her touching human cadavers. He had relented to her current job as a court lady who assisted court physicians, probably because it was nothing more than an aide position.
(He doesn’t like me doing surgical type treatments that much, huh.)
Maomao could deal with cuts and bruises, but wound sewing and pus drainage using incisions were all left to Dad. Of course, she was still familiar with the procedures as she has performed them herself in Dad’s absence, having learnt it all by observation.
Maomao suddenly looked at the numbers that stood out. “Human anatomy, surgical procedures…”
She figured the contents of the missing books were on the sections Dad didn’t want to teach her.
(I’m all the more curious.)
Maomao was furrowing her brow as she groaned, when a crash came from above. It sounded like something large had toppled over. Dust fell down in clumps from the ceiling.
With a look of panic, En’en raced up the stairs. Maomao left the book behind and followed after her.
A door on the second storey was open. En’en entered without a moment’s delay.
“Ow ow ow.” Yao was clutching her backside. A chest of drawers had fallen next to her. That seemed to be the source of the noise.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” En’en asked.
“No problem. I’m perfectly fine,” Yao said.
Maomao looked around the room. She can’t help but feel the room was peculiar in its design. “What’s with this room, it has an uneasy edge to it.”
The pattern on the wall was one she’d never seen before. She could tell that the floor and walls were made from wood, and she understood the strange pattern was created by dual coloured timber. Animals were drawn across the ceiling, and frankly, the room was unsettlingly discordant.
“…I was also shocked when I saw it. But, once I heard this outbuilding also belongs to the Ra Clan, it kind of made sense,” Yao said.
“Since it’s a family line that has produced eccentrics for generations, huh. It won’t be strange if there were talents who make peculiar rooms,” Maomao said.
Yao and En’en looked at Maomao.
“…anyway, what were you doing?” Maomao, wanting to change the topic, asked Yao.
“This.” Yao took out a book Dad had written. It showed [一-２-Ⅰ]
“What’s wrong with it?” Maomao asked. It was a book she hadn’t looked into yet, although she had checked the cover and numbering.
“Here, look at the last page.” Yao opened the book, and on the edge of the very last page, was a small, hand drawn circle.
“Could it be a taiji diagram?”
A taiji diagram(太極図, taikyoku zu in Japanese). Also known as the taiji fish(太極魚). A circular shape consisting of a black and white fish melding together. It’s a diagram often used in fortune telling—it failed to leave an impression on Maomao.
“Why this again?”
She could only tilt her head.
“If it’s the yin-yang diagram(陰陽図, onmyouzu in Japanese)...” En’en went downstairs and came back with a book. “…it’s here too.”
It was labelled [一 -２-Ⅲ ]
“It’s drawn on the very first page here.”
“….” Maomao lined up the two books. “I feel now is about the time when we should find the book.”
“Yes, that’s right. That’s what I thought.” Yao knocked on the wall of the room with great confidence. “I was thinking that the book has to be hidden in this room.”
“Why?” Maomao furrowed her brows in incomprehension, but En’en widened her eyes and clapped.
“Yao-sama, as expected of you.”
Wasn’t En’en praising her milady for being cute? What was, as expected of her?
“This wall and the floor represents the eight trigrams, right?” Yao said.
“I know right!” En’en said.
“Hakke?” Maomao tilted her head as she translated the word.
(Hakke, hakke(白鶏, white chicken), hakke(百家, hundred families), hakke(八卦, eight trigrams)…)
(T/N: Eight trigrams: 八卦, bagua in Chinese, Hakke in Japanese. Maomao was going through homonyms)
If she remembered correctly, it was something related to the yin-yang diagram, but unfortunately, it was outside Maomao’s field of expertise. Maomao’s memory declines markedly with things outside her area of interest.
“It’s the eight trigrams. Look here, could this pattern represent the yao lines(爻, Kou in Japanese)?” Yao said.
“Yao lines?” Maomao said.
Beyond being unfamiliar, a word she had no hope of guessing the meaning of was uttered.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know anything about it?” Yao looked surprised. She seemed a little happy.
“Rather, aren’t there fewer of the people who know about it?” Maomao frowned. It was somewhat vexing.
“Do you know of this kind of pattern?” Yao traced the floorboard with her finger. Out of the whitish floorboard and the blackish floorboard, she traced the black one. “The eight trigrams is made up of permutations of ‘broken’ and unbroken’ lines, known as yao lines, in sets of three. The lines are said to represent yin and yang, as well as softness and hardness respectively.”
(T/N: fyi not the same Yao as milady’s 姚 lol)
Maomao bent her fingers, counting. From how there were two types of yao lines in sets of three, it made for eight configurations in total. That’s how it becomes the eight trigrams.
When she looked at the floor, only the middle had a white timber surface, whilst the rest of the surfaces made up the eight diagrams.
“The chest of drawers fell because you moved it to check the floorboards underneath, right?”
“…yes,” Yao answered a little awkwardly.
“It represents the earlier heaven sequence(先天図, xian tian tu in Chinese or senten zu in Japanese).”
Once again, words that Maomao didn’t know were being tossed around. She considered replying, but then the conversation won’t progress, so she feigned understanding to continue on.
“I know of the earlier heaven sequence. So, where is the book?”
(T/N: Maomao is bluffing that she knows, but it’ll be helpful for us to know more lol. As we know, there are eight different permutations for the trigrams, and they can be sequenced in ways to symbolise something different. Earlier heaven is used specifically for burials, and is used to represent balance. According to wiki at least.)
Yao was silent. Apparently, that was as far as she got.
Hypothetically, if Dad were to draw in the taiji diagram for some reason, there should be a proper answer to be derived from it.
Maomao suddenly looked at the two books. The contents were about human anatomy. One contained detailed drawings of the hand, the other, the foot. “Yao-san. Do each of the eight trigrams carry some kind of meaning?”
“It has meanings for compass points, animals, and family members as well.”
“Does it include the human body?”
“It does!” Yao looked at the book in surprise. “Excluding the missing book, there are eight volumes with [一-２]”
“Eight volumes, if there are hand and foot, then the remaining six would have to be head, mouth, eye, thigh, ear and abdomen.”
“I’ve brought them.” En’en, with her quick understanding, came back with the rest of the books from downstairs. Maomao checked the contents; it was as Yao had said.
“If you consider the taiji diagram, there shouldn’t be any missing parts.”
However, there were missing numbers.
Maomao stood in the centre of the room, on top of the area without any eight trigrams, and looked up. “That’s a lot of animals drawn here.”
“You’ll understand once you see it. There’s horse, dog, pheasant, and also a drawing that looks like a dragon, is that right?”
“The dragon is a rude being, huh.”
Using the creature that symbolises the imperial clan without permission is occasionally punishable.
“…so, the drawings on the ceiling also make up the eight trigrams.” Yao squinted. The colours had faded over time, but it was still distinguishable.
“Yao-san, does the one horse and two sheep in the middle of the ceiling mean something?”
“For the horse, it would be [Qian]. South in the earlier heaven sequence. The father within the family. The head of the body. Metal in the five elements, and one in numbers.”
“Numbers? What is the number for sheep?”
“For the sheep, it’s either two or eight. In the earlier heaven sequence it would be two.”
“One and two twos.” Maomao looked at the book. Should she say that it’s odd? The missing numbering happened to be [一-２-Ⅱ].
Maomao righted the position of her head, and faced the wall. The black and white boards were arranged more delicately there than on the floor.
“Which is one and two in the eight trigrams?”
Yao moved to the floor.
“One is this: a set of three unbroken lines. Two has one broken line at the top, and two unbroken lines underneath.
[☰] and [☱].
Maomao searched the wall before her carefully.
“What are you doing?” Yao asked.
“I’m looking for a sequence with one, two, two,” Maomao said. Her eyes started hurting from looking at the similar combinations. And moreover, if she were to look away, she would lose track of what she was looking at before.
“Then, I’ll look from the other side,” Yao said.
“In that case, I’ll be cheering you on. I’ll prepare some tea and snacks.”
En’en escaped. Wait, Maomao wanted to chase after her, but if she looked away, she won’t know where she was up to. She wanted to put markers on the wall, but it was an eye-straining exercise where she couldn’t do that.
En’en prepared the tea. The fragrant aroma of the pastries was from what Suiren had taught her before. After being taught the recipe, En’en was then able to make it herself.
From the configurations here, it would seem like there would be a sequence of one, two, two, but there wasn’t. When there’s one, two, the next wouldn’t be two.
(It should show up right about now.)
Maomao thought, then bumped into Yao.
“You found it?” Yao asked.
“No,” Maomao said.
“How could this be?”
“Could we have missed it?” Maomao looked at the wall, straining her eyes. She had to check again, but she didn’t want to.
“Are you up for tea?” En’en held out a teapot.
Yao and Maomao’s voices overlapped.
The room didn’t have a table, so they laid out a rug on the floor and drank there. Suiren’s prized pastry recipe was delicious. They hardly steamed food since there weren’t enough cooking utensils at the dorms, but En’en purposely borrowed a baking stove from elsewhere to make it.
“De’ishious.” Yao was extremely satisfied, but when she finished, she had to check once again. If it wasn’t there, would it mean that Maomao’s prediction was off?
“It’s disappointing, isn’t it? That after one, two, the next number is wrong.”
“Yes. Only the last number is wrong. Even though it’ll be nice if there was at least one.” Maomao agreed with Yao.
“I know right. The number changes completely if just one line is different. I was thinking that if yang becomes yin here,” Yao said.
Yang is a long line. Yin is two short lines.
“…yang becomes yin.”
Maomao looked at the eight trigrams on the floor.
When the uppermost yang for [☰] changes to yin [☱].
Maomao stood up and studied the wall again.
(It should be around here.)
A sequence of one, two, one.
She felt that this sequence wasn’t found anywhere else.
Maomao touched the third one, the uppermost yang of [☰].
It was faint, but it felt out of place under her fingers.
Maomao tried pushing down on the centre of the long line.
She pressed down hard on the centre of yang.
(From yang to yin.)
There was a clack and something jutted out from the wall. A drawer slid out.
“No way?” Yao’s eyes rounded.
“That surprised me.” En’en stared at the drawer.
Maomao took out a book from the drawer.
It was a book that had been missing, but its binding was quite rough compared to the others. The pages were crooked and the thickness didn’t match.
“Is this parchment?”
“It feels like it.” Maomao gingerly turned the page. The words weren’t written with a brush but with Western writing instruments. Most of the content wasn’t in Rii characters. It was mostly cursive Western words, and occasionally there would be notes written in the Rii language.
(Something from when he’s studying abroad.)
Her dad, Ruomen, had studied in the West in his youth. His exceptional medical knowledge came from what he’d learnt abroad.
Although she only knew a little, Maomao understood Western words. Although there were vocabulary she couldn’t understand scattered here and there, she read on slowly–
And blanched in horror.
“Maomao…” En’en also looked uneasy.
“What’s wrong? What does it say?”
As the only one who couldn’t read Western words, Yao was envious of their reactions.
Maomao didn’t turn to the next page.
“Come on, what’s wrong?” Yao reached out for the book. She turned the page for Maomao.
The page she turned to had what both Maomao and En’en feared.
“What is this?” Yao said.
A human body drawn in detail. It would be fine if that was all to it. However, the person on the picture had their skin peeled off and the flesh beneath it drawn in detail.
“…–” Yao turned away in disgust. The brushwork, too realistic to be drawn from imagination, couldn’t have been drawn without the real thing in front of them.
Maomao turned to the next page.
It was the drawing of an excised abdomen with the organs inside.
(Dad had cut the empress dowager’s abdomen using the skills he learnt from the West.)
Childbirth by operation. Normally, when a delivery endangers both mother and child, a method to save the child only is employed.
However, Ruomen had kept both mother and child alive.
It wasn’t something that can be achieved with knowledge alone.
He had probably cut up many abdomens before.
As practice, he would have cut up many bodies.
The reason Dad kept Maomao far away from cadavers. The reason he recommended her to become a herbalist rather than a doctor.
(Is this the reason?)
Maomao closed the distorted book.
She won’t deny what Dad had done. In medical practice, knowledge of the human body is a given, and Maomao too had repeatedly experimented on her own body to that end.
However, would Yao’s reaction be considered the most common one?
Yao was holding her mouth as she regarded the distorted book with hatred.
Maomao had no idea about what it’s like in the West. However, for the extremely average citizen of Rii, the contents of the book will be hard to accept.
It was taboo based on their beliefs. The contents transgressed as taboo.
Maomao looked at the back of the book she set down.
(T/N: yes, this is as it was written in the raws. The first instance of English. Surprised me when I saw it.)
It was written in cursive.
Whatever its meaning, she understood why Dad had hidden the book.
If it were released into society, it would be burned as a prohibited book. A book that cannot exist.