Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ The Apothecary's Other Diary ❯ Gordian Knot ( Chapter 8 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]


Gordian Knot


Now that I’m resting in bed, I must recount my thoughts on the events that led me to having a long gash in my calf. I suppose it all started when… no. It started when Suiren informed me we were going to be vegetarian for the next week, and ordered me to go to the dispensary for a specific medicine. But only once I threw out Jinshi’s garbage over a certain wall so his obsessed stalkers would go digging through it for trophies. I wish I was joking. Finding out they were knitting their own hair into undergarments and sneaking them into his wardrobes had gotten a series of them dismissed. Apparently my general disdain made me a rare gem indeed.

Carrying the heavy basket weighed as much as I do. It was a special torture. Throwing the bags over the wall to be burned eventually completed my first task. Next, the infirmary for medicine. Once there I met the pretty herbalist with the sickle. Today she was not holding any sharp implements, but her glare on discovering me struggling to hold off my curiosity to search these drawers for amazing ingredients, her glare was piercing enough like any war arrow fired in anger. She was there, it seems, for medicines for the troops outside the walls. A very determined woman, I must admit. If she smiled she’d make a good courtesan, but apparently she had more important things to do as a Court Lady.

The medicine I was there to retrieve was a white powder, so out of curiosity I checked it and found it to be potato starch. Odd. This is more of a food than a medicine.

“Lady Suirei, how is the herb garden?” I asked her.

“I planted morning glories,” she answered, then left. Odd.

Two days later I was sweeping in front of the building while Jinshi was off cleansing himself for some ritual tomorrow. I was rightly sick of eating vegetables and mush for every meal, but it would be over soon. Lihaku turned up, looking excited.

“Do you remember the warehouse explosion? It turns out another was broken into and some ceremonial tools were stolen,” he explained in a loud whisper.

“That’s strange,” I agreed.

“It’s just the manager is away from his position and his replacement caught food poisoning,” he explained. My eyes widened.

“Seaweed?” I confirmed. He nodded, surprised. “What about his predecessor?” I asked him.

“He passed away last year. I don’t know the details,” he said. “What was his name again? He was strict and liked sweet food.”

“Kounen?” I confirmed again.

“Yeah, that was it. How’d you know?” he asked. “Anyway, I tried to return this pipe to the warehouseman who got hurt in that fire, but he didn’t want it back. Said some court lady gave it to him for walking her home.”

“Did he catch her name?” I asked.

“I asked that and he said she was wearing a hood so he couldn’t see her face. It was a cold night and she was wearing a scarf. He said she was tall and smelled of medicine.”

“I remember someone like that. But it might just be coincidence. Or not. Can you find out more?” I asked him. It was his job, after all.

“What’s this? You seem close,” threatened Jinshi, who appeared around a tree. Lihaku took the chance to run away, leaving me.

“There are several new facts you should be aware of their connections, Jinshi-sama,” I answered, eyes narrowing in thought. “We should discuss this in your office.”

On returning I explained the situation, mentioning I knew of a tall lady who smelled of medicine but it might be coincidence. Or a larger plot. With so many overlapping parts and the mysteries I’d been sent to solve over the last nine months, there is a chance they are connected through this court lady and the officials removed under suspicious circumstances. I explained this.

“You need more solid evidence these events are linked. I shall grant you access to the archives, and instruct the archivist to show you anything you wish related to these events,” Jinshi promised.

The following day I met the archivist and after some searching found the duty of Master Kounen was master of ceremonies and rituals. His understudy was paralyzed by the poisoned seaweed. The missing implements from the warehouse explosion incident connected to the pipe gifted by a court lady.

“It is fortunate they were able to have the tools remade in time for today’s ceremony,” he said. “There is a large beam suspended by cables over a ceremonial fire, with messages to the gods hung from them. All is attached through a series of pulleys and cables sunk into the floor,” he mentioned in relief.

“Where?” I asked him, stricken in realization. This is the other plot. This is what it is all about. He showed me a map of the outer court and I began to run. Empty courtyards, passageways. Past guards and court ladies at work. Past serving girls. Past all of them towards a large plaza lined by blue-robed eunuchs, wide stairs and a guard with a knobbed metal war club.

“Stop!” he commanded.

“I am personal servant of Jinshi. There is an emergency in the chamber. I must get through,” I struggled to explain, breathing hard.

“The ritual is not to be disturbed under any circumstances,” he declared, brandishing his club and pushing me back.

“The ritual tools have been sabotaged. The master is in danger,” I responded.

“NO one is to disturb the ritual.”

“Ah… I see. You’re delaying me. Perhaps you are part of this plot then?” I sneered. His eyes flared and the club struck me across the right side of my face. By all rights it should have killed me right then and there. Struggling to rise, my eye swelling shut, someone approached from behind me.

“Why not let her through?” said a familiar voice. The guard flinched, turning his burning gaze from me to this man. A second soldier grabbed the club soldier, holding him back and I staggered to my feet, running unevenly up the stairs and towards the braziers, and the very heavy beam hung with silken banners. A spot of metal dripped from an ornamented metal piece the size of my arm and I lunged as it began to shift. The cable sang on its pulleys and the beam began to fall.

“Watch out!” I cried, lunging forward and pushed the kneeling priest out of the way. Something stung my leg, turning it numb, and my face had only half its vision.

“What? Maomao? What have they done to you?” asked the voice of Jinshi. The beam, which must have weighed several hundred stone, lay nearly touching us, crushed through the floor tiles like an angry fist of god. Or a carefully organized plot to assassinate the prince.

“I made it in time,” I sighed, and passed out.

Waking in bed, one eye covered in bandages, and my leg expertly sewed shut by one of the palaces doctors I am in some pain, and some confusion. I had saved my boss from a plot to assassinate him. I had saved my future husband from death. I had saved the Empire from what could have sparked a civil war. Or was meant to do so. The military were involved, and the plotter had killed or crippled several people. Sitting here, wondering if I could have done any better than I had.