Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ The Apothecary's Other Diary ❯ Too Many Questions ( Chapter 9 )

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


Too Many Questions


Several days passed before I was able to remove the bandages on my face. My eye was fine, though bruised. I have to wonder if Hachiman came while I was sleeping to save my eye. A club like that could crush the orbital bone and take the eye with it. I should be dead. Again. I’d like to say that having died and been reborn several times now that it would give me perspective and serenity, but it really doesn’t. All things strive.

The confrontation between myself, Jinshi, Gaoshun, and Basen while Suiren looked on tempering their reactions with reminders I was wounded I have recounted in my semi-official main diary. Here I’d rather consider the greater issues, that of this Ka family nearly getting their prince assassinated, and it was solely my own actions which saved him in the very last tenth of a second. A couple feet less of a lunge and I’d have only been there to see him die in front of me. My feelings are squishy. I generally do not care about other people. This is the fault of how I was raised, not being held when I cried as a baby has made my emotions remote. This distance inside myself is some kind of damage.

Being essentially helpless except for what I can learn and leverage as knowledge is just an ineffective replacement for the magic I once had as Tanya. And I have to admit I am jealous that my brother, of all people, possesses magic now. Or then. Time travel exists. Not just reincarnation, but time travel. I knew reincarnation was real before, and most Japanese say they believe in it, officially. Knowing this to be actually true, that the Christians who believe in a single life and judgement… are wrong? This is the sort of thing that would cause revolutions if it ever got back to the Middle East and Europe. That the Judeo-Christian-Muslim world were completely wrong? Or mostly wrong, considering that Bible prayers actually empowered that cursed computation jewel…

Although, if Being X was actually a demon, creating an item of power after inspiring a book of nonsense two thousand… no, 1500 years ago… that fits its behavior. Its desire for subservience and worship through violence, warfare, and evil magic? That fits, and does not actually require the Christian god in the first place. The Asurans are said to have the power of the Buddha, but with rage and violence for having lost the Buddha mind in Nirvana. Expelled, fallen, like fallen angels, what Demons are, according to the Christians. It fits the evidence. Being X creating evil corruptions of both of the Sioux’s, father and daughter, were debasement of their spirits, something no god would do. Only an evil being could do such a thing. Turning them from people into vengeance demons for a short time before I put them down like the animals they had become. It was a mercy, truly. For all the ills in this life, none has been as dark or twisted as those two had been at their ends.

The most important point I made to Jinshi is something I said to him once it was just the two of us.

“They know who you really are. They wouldn’t have tried to kill you like this without that information. This costume isn’t protecting you.” He held me against his muscled chest, hidden behind this blue robe common to all eunuchs. “How much longer will you keep up this game?” I asked him, muffled against him.

“We don’t know if those are the only ones. And dropping the disguise now means the others would know, and I’d have to abandon my work in the Outer Palace. I’m not done yet.”

“What are you trying to accomplish there that requires this disguise?” I asked him.

“Rooting out the corruption, finding the source of the poisoners, ending the attacks which weaken the empire,” he listed.

“It is likely someone has been feeding information to those with motivation to poison the concubines or their children. These poisons aren’t common knowledge.”

“Well, at least we found the one behind these attacks. She poisoned herself and left a confession,” he said with finality.

“Who?” I asked.

“Lady Suirei, one of the Palace Ladies who worked with the military force stationed outside the walls,” he answered. “Apparently she was an apothecary like you.”

“Hmm. Tall? Long dark hair? Blue robe?” I asked.

“Yes. I’d seen her around the outer palace. Why she did it, no one knows.”

“That is probably important. Can I see the body?” I asked him.

“I suppose. I think she’s scheduled to be cremated tomorrow,” he answered. He sounded sleepy.

“Well, we should go check. Something doesn’t sit right,” I said, also feeling sleepy.

We drifted off together then. It was the first time I slept with him, beside any man not my uncle, and it was comforting. I slept well, actually. But I woke to humming, and a soft voice singing in English.

“I could feel at the time, there was no way of knowing… fallen leaves in the night, who can say where they’re blowing?... As free as the wind, hopefully learning, why the sea on the tide, has no way of turning… more than this… nothing… more than this… tell me one thing….” It was Suiren, I turned to regard her and felt my brother looking out through her eyes.

“Hachiman. Did you heal my eye?” I asked him in Japanese.

“Yes. You slept through it,” her soft old voice answered quietly in our mother tongue. Jinshi stirred against me.

“Thank you,” I said.

“I see your relationship is advancing,” he said.

Jinshi stilled, muscles tensing. I soothed his hand. “It’s okay. My brother is here. Would you like to speak with him?” I murmured in Mandarin to my prince. His eyes flicked open, caught in surprise at his grandmother sitting there. We were still entangled from sleeping together.

“So, this is the Prince of Ka,” she said in halting Mandarin. “As my sister’s only responsible male relation, I am honor-bound to determine your intentions toward her.”

“I have been dealing with her father. And as a royal prince I can appoint any single woman as my concubine,” Jinshi responded. I cringed, putting my face in my hands.

“I think you will find that my sister is fit to be your sole wife, not some concubine among many,” Suiren responded in somewhat stilted Mandarin. The language will change considerably in the next few centuries. If he learned it from books, it was going to sound weird. This explained a lot. “A marriage is a union between families, not merely the attempt to procreate. I have insured Komachi… I mean Maomao is in perfect health. So when can you officially commit to her?” he asked.

“You realize that asking me such questions while wearing the face of my grandmother is disconcerting,” Jinshi pointed out.

“It is the nature of my interactions with your people in this time,” he answered. “So when will you declare her your woman? When will you make her status and your own official?”

“When I have found the rot within my father’s palace and removed the threat,” Jinshi finally said. “Only then will it be safe to admit my name.”

“I will not be pleased if you wait too long. If my sister is used and discarded with your child unacknowledged, we will have words, Prince Ka,” he warned. Then the light fell from Suiren’s eyes and she blinked.

“Oh? I must have drifted off. Good morning, you two. Would you like some breakfast?” she offered.

After eating the two of us plus Gaoshun and Lihaku visited the morgue, which was in the outer palace behind the dispensary. The doctor working there I’d met before, and I remembered that he’d had a certain shine when dealing with Lady Suirei.

“She was poisoned,” he explained.

“So you performed the autopsy to determine this?” I asked him. He looked uncomfortable and turned away.

“She had no pulse and was cold to the touch, did not breathe… what else was I to think?” he asked.

“So you didn’t cut her open to see which organs failed?” I asked him. He looked embarrassed. “Where is the coffin?” He showed me to the box and I lifted the heavy hoe that I’d gotten Lihaku to carry for me.

“What are you doing?” the doctor objected. I swung the farming implement down and pried open the lid a finger’s width. Repeat in three more places and then pry it off. Inside was… a different woman entirely.

“What?” said the doctor, shocked. I raised an eyebrow.

“I think I know what happened here,” I said, and laid out my suspicions while I searched the remaining coffins. I found one in the back with its lid loose. The coffin was empty.

“This was the one. And she took a special poison that causes temporary paralysis, the appearance of death. She’d made sure to seduce the doctor enough that he wouldn’t want to cut her open, and when the night fell, she waited for a helper to pry the lid off and release her. She was a tall woman, so could disguise herself as a man and leave with the workmen in the morning with none the wiser.”

“She got away with it all,” Jinshi said, shocked.

“So it seems,” Gaoshun agreed. Lihaku looked baffled by this strange turn of events.

“The confession will probably contain falsehoods as well,” I sighed. The doctor was doubly heartbroken and betrayed by Suirei.

“Do you realize what this means?” I finally said. The four men turned to regard me.

“She has secret knowledge of drugs I’ve barely heard of. I could learn so much from her. I hope I’ll meet her again,” I started to giggle. I have to admit that I may have lost control of myself then. All of them looked disturbed before I could stop my hysterical laughter.

“Riiight,” decided Gaoshun. Well, doctor, we’ll want to ask you some questions,” Gaoshun announced, and he and Jinshi and Basen left with the man. Lihaku blinked when I handed back the hoe to him.

“Thank you for carrying that. Be sure it gets back to where it belongs,” I ordered. He looked like he wanted to argue, but did it. I exited the mortuary and headed for the baths to clean up. The stink of the dead was not something I wanted on me for the rest of the day.