Volume 8, Chapter 5: Taboo

Hearing prohibited book, what about it is forbidden?

Maomao checked the contents of the misshapen book.

Surgical procedures are recognised in Rii. Otherwise, the empress dowager wouldn’t have been able to give birth to the emperor safely.

Then, what is forbidden?

The human body was meticulously drawn out on the parchment. A blade was taken to the skin, and the internal organs were fully visible. It couldn’t have been drawn without a dissected human in view, and the dissected human couldn’t have been alive.

“To think that they would chop up a corpse.”

Yao was still pale. En’en fetched some water and passed it to Yao.

(They have no other choice but to play around with one.)

It was something that Dad had told Maomao. Don’t touch them, he had taken the topic to an extreme.

It doesn’t end with death. This is what many believe, and this was especially the case for Yao, who suffered a huge shock. Someone like her, who is well-versed in the eight trigrams, is likely to believe in it much more profoundly. 

The dismembering of human beings is fundamentally prohibited.

“They won’t be able to be reborn as a human, will they?”

You cannot destroy the corpse, as they won’t be able to become human again—

Many eunuchs preserve the one thing they lost with utmost care. As it is said that if they lose that one thing, they won’t be reborn as a human, but as a donkey.

The cremation of criminals is also to prevent them from reincarnating as a human. In such cases, the criminal may undergo dissection under special circumstances, but this is often avoided on grounds of moral considerations 

On the other hand, one of the heaviest forms of punishment is the dismemberment of one’s body whilst still being kept alive.

It was ridiculous. As if there’s such thing as a next life.

Regrettably, despite wanting to dismiss such an idea, Maomao couldn’t completely denounce the possibility of past lives. She too, may be the reincarnation of somebody, and she may not.

(It’s impossible to confirm even through dying.)

Even if you reincarnate, no memories remain.  Perchance, her current life could be the reincarnation of someone from the past, but she didn’t possess any memories of her past life.

Maomao groaned as she prepared to turn to the next page. However, Yao had grabbed hold of the book, and Maomao, flustered, grabbed Yao’s hand.

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“Let go,” Yao said.

“What are you going to do?” Maomao asked.

“I have to burn it. This can’t become public.”

It was the conventional opinion. However, Maomao couldn’t suppress her feelings of temptation.

“Yao-san. Have you ever witnessed a surgery?” Maomao asked, lowering her voice to control her emotions.

“…stitching a wound,” Yao replied.

“Not that. What if a stomach has been stabbed with a blade? What if there’s an adequate treatment? What if they don’t have to die?”

“…” Yao bit her lip. She is only fifteen years old. Her mentality still has some childishness, but she is smart. Moreover, she is able to see things objectively.

“Will you be able to tell which organs are injured at first glance?” Maomao asked.

“I will eventually be able…to…”

“How many people will you lose before you reach that point?”

“…”

Maomao snatched the book away from Yao.

She understood what Yao was trying to say. Maomao, too, understood that it is a prohibited book through common sense.

To begin with, with the exception of executioners, the harming of another human being is not permitted.

Of course, war is a different matter.

On the other hand, knowledge of human anatomy is indispensable in the medical profession. Aside from her Dad Ruomen, what was the case for other court physicians? 

“I can understand why Yao-san would think the act of court physicians chopping people apart like executioners is inexcusable, let alone recording it in such a manner,” Maomao said.

“Yes, that’s right,” Yao said.

“But, what if the dissected bodies belong to criminals?”

“….”

Human morality is ambiguous. If there is a law that forbids this action, opposing it is unforgivable. However, if a teaching that allows exceptions is prepared, people can consent to it.

At times it is known as politics, other times, religion.

Maomao had a question ever since she started working at the medical office. The standards of the court physicians’ skill in surgery were high. Supposing that they were town doctors, they could easily treat a serious injury that would end up with an amputation of the limbs.

She had seen Court Physician Ryuu perform a surgery once. As soon as Maomao was entrusted with jobs different to Yao’s group, she also worked as an assistant for the operation.

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A doctor-hating military official had neglected his injuries and allowed them to fester. The struggling military official was restrained and made to drink a pain-killer.

Maomao had seen that the infected area was large, with no other options than to cut it out, but Court Physician Ryuu only removed the smallest section needed and didn’t amputate. There were still prognostic symptoms, but the aftermath of the operation was sound.

If he hadn’t understood the anatomy of the arm muscles, he probably wouldn’t be able to perform such an efficient operation.

(It’s probably better to not ask that question with Yao here.)

About what to do with this book now.

“I think Yao-san’s perspective on how this book is prohibited literature is not wrong. However, I don’t know about hunting out for things in other people’s homes and disposing of it without permission,” Maomao said.

“B-but,” Yao said.

“From the paper and writing implements, it was written in the West. The common sense of the West is different from Rii. What if the medical procedures that are naturally performed over there is only odd here?”

“…still, I can’t accept…it. But…”

“Yao-sama.” En’en, who had been quiet this whole time, opened her mouth. “How about we return this book to its original location? At times, it might be wise to pretend it as we have never seen it.”

“But…”

Yao has a straightforward personality. Though it sounds good, she wasn’t flexible.

However, it seems it’ll take some time for her to cool her head.

“Let’s eat. I prepared a lot of Yao-sama’s favourite dim sums today,” En’en said.

“I don’t have much of an appetite though,” Yao said.

“We have hasma too.”

“…I’ll eat some.”

While she didn’t know what it’s made from, no doubt it was Yao’s favourite.

En’en pushed Yao’s back and guided her to the living room.

Maomao sighed as she wrapped the distorted book up and returned it to its hidden shelf.

 .

 .

 .

It was cold at noon, but colder at night.

Maomao was bundled up in a blanket as she continued to copy books. In the end, from the incident at noon, she had her hands full and wasn’t able to completely finish transcribing.

She heard the shuffling sounds of footsteps.

“Please sleep at night.”

En’en came over.

“I haven’t finished,” Maomao said.

“There’s no way you’ll finish.” En’en sat down beside Maomao. From the looks of it, Yao was probably sound asleep. “About the said book, what will you do with it?” 

“Even if you ask me, I returned it,” Maomao said.

Returning it to its original position as if nothing happened, might be the most amicable option. However, she couldn’t assert that it was the right answer.

Considering Yao, Maomao probably couldn’t calm down. She had to put it somewhere where it won’t be easily found.

Concurrently, she was convinced that Yao wasn’t suited for working at the medical office.

“En’en, as things stand, do you think it’s okay for Yao-san to continue working at the medical office?”

“What are you asking now?” En’en started to transcribe another book. Maomao was thankful for her assistance.

“There’s also the matter with food tasting, but there’s also her personality. A talent like Yao-san would probably be in great demand at other posts too. She’s well-versed in the eight trigrams too.”

En’en continued to transcribe smoothly. “The eight trigrams and the five elements is a required subject for the duty post she tried to take before.”

(五行, Gogyou in Japanese, Wu Xing in Chinese. Chinese Philosophy regarding the interaction and relationship between the five elemental phases–fire, water, metal, wood, earth. It is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs. According to wiki.)

“Go on.”

“When she heard that the assignment to the medical office allows females, she switched posts. Since the five elements is used too.”

The five elements is also used in the medical office. Herbal medicine dishes commonly adopt the philosophies of the five elements.

“It was surprising that Maomao is disinterested in the eight trigrams though.”

“I dabble a bit in the five elements, but the cursing component of the eight trigrams is too much to suit me.”

Maomao had no intention of learning curses and divination.

“I see.” En’en nodded very deeply.

“A person who doesn’t have other special skills like me aside, I think Yao-san and En’en can demonstrate your abilities elsewhere.” They went a little off-topic, so Maomao tried to go back on track.

En’en’s brush stopped. “I don’t think Yao-sama will quit working at the medical office.”

“No matter what?”

“No matter what. —even if the medical office were to touch onto taboo.”

“….”

As expected, En’en is sharp. It seems she had realised what Maomao had also noticed.

“When did you realise that?” Maomao asked.

“When we found the book today.”

The book that recorded the illustration of a dissected human being.

Surgical procedures are permitted in this country, but not the chopping of human cadavers.

However, Court Physician Ryuu knew the structure of the human body intimately.

Criminals are allowed to be chopped up. The bodies of criminals are cremated, not allowed to be reborn as a human.

At times, the imperial family will also get surgical procedures, but that can never be a failure.

In other words, what she’s meaning to say, is that the court physician used the bodies of criminals to polish their skills in medicine. If the chopped up cadaver is cremated, it won’t leave behind any proof.

Doctors have to be respectable people. That’s exactly why they would wish to hide their bloody, cruel actions to the best of their abilities.

(That’s the reason Dad didn’t want to have me become a doctor.)

“Court Physician Ruomen, Court Physician Ryuu, and a number of others know the structure of the human body considerably well. Newcomers and unskilled court physicians wouldn’t know of it from the get-go,” Maomao said.

“I am of the same opinion,” En’en said.

It’s likely that only capable talents are allowed to know. And personality is also included in their suitability.

“If Yao-sama quits working at the medical office, she wouldn’t be able to transfer to another post. There is a high chance that she won’t get anywhere with pressure. The medical office is a domain that Yao-sama’s uncle cannot touch.”

The top brass of the court physicians is Court Physician Ryuu. There is hardly anyone who can defy him.

“I will let Yao-sama do however she likes until she finds a suitable husband.”

“…husband.”

“What’s wrong, Maomao? You have an unexpected look on your face.” En’en tilted her head.

“No, I thought En’en rejected every gentleman who got close to Yao-san.”

“There’s no such thing. I won’t deal with them if they surpass a certain standard for lineage, appearance, personality and the like, and if it’s Yao-sama’s wishes.”

(Deal with them…)

How motivated.

Could she even find such an ideal husband? Maomao made a distant look.

“And so, I think we can work without any problems. As only excellent court physicians require special studies, we court ladies won’t be called out,” En’en said.

(In other words, keep quiet, huh.)

Maomao held a finger against her lip.

“The current issue would be the book we discovered, isn’t it?” En’en said.

“…Yao-san wouldn’t be able to keep quiet and pretend she never saw it, right?” Maomao said.

At least, Yao probably won’t be able to treat dad like she would normally.

“It would be fine if she didn’t find faults with da- Court physician Ruomen though.”

Dad is perceptive so he’ll probably figure it out quickly.

“I think, about Court Physician Ruomen, Yao-sama got a huge shock because she respects him. But I believe she would be a little more understanding if we tell her where he had studied in the West,” En’en said.

“…it would be nice that way though.”

Maomao started moving the brush, and continued transcribing the book.

 

 

 

- my thoughts:
I haven't been commenting much lately since I've been reading ahead, which makes it feel like everything I say will be in spoiler territory, hints or otherwise... so forgive my silence ;-; That being said, thank you for your comments, guys. They all make my day :D
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