Shinko’s clinic was packed with people today as well. Riri knocked on the back door and it immediately opened from the inside.
“Ah, Riri. You’re finally here. I’ve been waiting for you!”
The middle-aged man in white clothes was the director of this clinic, Choumei.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I’ve brought you some incenses.”
She opened the cloth bag to reveal a number of white packages, which Choumei quickly checked before accepting.
“Thanks for always preparing them for us. The incenses you mix are very popular among the patients. You would be a great perfumer if women were allowed to become one.”
His voice was full of regret.
“But you wouldn’t be able to get incense for medical use at such a low price if I were to become a perfumer.”
It was normal for clinics to have doctors and perfumers, but Choumei’s clinic couldn’t afford to hire a perfumer. Normally, it would be condemnable to buy incense made by someone who wasn’t a qualified perfumer.
However, incenses prepared by an official perfumer costs twice as much as the incense Riri prepared.
She made sure that the incenses worked perfectly, and Choumei bought them from her in secret.
“It hurts me to hear you say that. This is a clinic in the slums, so we can’t afford to buy them at that price.”
“Doctor! There’s a patient waiting for you!”
A voice came from inside and Choumei quickly nodded, then he lowered his voice.
“Do you want to earn extra money today too? We’re so busy today and I can’t do everything on my own.”
“You mean by doing ‘that’? But I think that’s a bad idea…”
I frowned while whispering and Choumei put his hands together in front of his face to beg.
“Don’t say that. I actually have an important guest today. I’d like to finish examining the patients before then, but there’s a crowd of patients. Please help me.”
The reason the small clinic is always packed with patients is because Choumei allows them to pay later if they don’t have any money. People who live downtown generally struggle to make ends meet. Choumei knows this, that’s why he waits for them to pay for their bill. However, because of this, he couldn’t buy medicines and incenses, and had to buy what he needed from an unqualified perfumer like Riri.
“Who exactly is your important guest?”
“Listen and be amazed. The Crown Prince of Shinzui, Prince Kousho, will be visiting this clinic.”
Choumei puffed out his chest in pride. Riri couldn’t believe her ears when she heard that name.
“Prince Kousho… are you talking about the son of the Emperor? That Prince Kousho?! Why is such an important person coming to this downtown clinic?”
Riri heard that the Crown Prince, Prince Kousho, had a high reputation in Shinzui and abroad.
She had never seen him before, but people say he’s handsome, polite and assists the Emperor in politics and diplomacy. To her, a downtown resident, he was an unreachable existence.
“I asked a friend of a friend of a friend if we could receive a donation from the government. So, the Prince is visiting today for that. We may receive a large donation if the visit goes well. With that money, we can hire another doctor, get more equipment and accept more patients. Today is an important day.”
The bearded Choumei looked scary, but he was a kind doctor who cared about his patients.
“I see. Then you have to do your best today. I’ll help you in any way I can. You always help me out.”
“Thanks. Then I’ll ask you to do the usual thing for the patients who come to see you.”
Riri was quickly invited into the clinic by Choumei and entered through the backdoor.
Riri closed the window of the small examination room. She really wanted to let the fresh breeze in, but there were circumstances that prevented her from doing so. When the preparations were finished, the door to the examination room opened and a patient walked in.
“It’s going to take a while before the doctor gets here, so I’d like to talk to you first.”
Riri looked at the boy in front of her while dressed in a white coat and holding a notebook and brush. The boy was twelve or thirteen years old and was wearing a dirty kimono. She looked at the boy, who sat uncomfortably in the chair, and sniffed.
(I can smell that he’s in pain. He seems to be protecting his right arm. Could it be…?)
“Does your hand hurt?”
The boy looked up and blinked.
“How do you know that it hurts when I haven’t said anything yet?”
Riri smiled vaguely at the curious boy.
(People sweat when they’re in pain. You won’t believe me if I told you that I can tell from your sweat.)
The scent sweat produced differed slightly depending on the various changes that occurred in the body.
Riri’s sense of smell, which she was proud of, was able to distinguish these subtle differences. Choumei was impressed with her useful nose, but the truth was, she couldn’t easily tell everything. First of all, in order to tell the difference in a person’s sweat, she had to be together with them in a sealed room. That was why she closed the window in this room.
She could tell the subtle difference in someone’s sweat in an open space, but it was difficult if the person wasn’t close enough for her to feel their breath, and in an environment where there are multiple people around. Also, if the other person’s sweat didn’t smell strong enough, then it would mix with the other people’s scents, making it difficult to distinguish.
At Choumei’s request, she had used her sense of smell to help him diagnose patients a few times. Her job was to smell the sweat of the patients to find out what was wrong with them and determine if they needed immediate treatment or if they could wait a little longer. The clinic was always busy, and it was impossible for Choumei to treat everyone immediately by himself.
Therefore, it was her job to decide whether it was an emergency or not.
“My right arm hurts below my elbow. I fell down while farming.”
The boy raised his right arm. When he rolled up his sleeve, Riri saw a bluish black bruise around the bottom of his elbow.
She touched his arm lightly and moved her face closer to his. The scent of the boy’s sweat became even more obvious.
(The pain doesn’t seem that bad from the scent of his sweat. It doesn’t seem like he’s broken any bones.)
She thought that there wasn’t a need for Choumei to examine him right away.
“I’ll burn some incense to take away the pain. Wait for the doctor while smelling it.”
Riri put the incense she had just brought to the clinic earlier into the incense burner and lit it with a flint.
Soon after, white smoke began to rise from the incense burner. The boy smelled the smoke and quietly closed his eyes.
“… It smells nice. I feel like the pain’s fading away… Thanks.”
She nodded to the boy, who smiled with his eyes closed, and quietly left the room.
She remembered the boy’s words as she leaned her back against the closed door and her heart gently warmed.
“Thank you, he said.”
She was grateful that she was able to mix incenses every time she heard those words in the clinic. Ever since she was little, she wanted to become a perfumer like her father, but after seeing the benefits of the incenses at the clinic, her dream changed, and she wanted to become a ‘perfumer who healed people’. However, there was a big obstacle in the way of her achieving her dream.
“Women can’t take the national exam to become perfumers…”
Only after passing the national exam can she proudly call herself a perfumer.
She had talked about this with Renka, but it was impossible for her to receive the qualifications to become a perfumer now.
“I wonder if I can do something about it…”
She walked to the examining room where Choumei was to report the boy’s injury to him while pondering.
As she walked through the waiting room, she noticed that there was a crowd of people and stopped.
“What is it…? Ah, could it be?!”
She stood on her tip toes and stared past the crowd, then widened her eyes in surprise.
“Wow! How cool…!”
The woman next to her agreed with the words that had leaked out of her mouth.
“You’re right. Prince Kousho is wonderful. It’s the first time I’ve seen him this close up!”
The excited woman’s cheeks flushed as she looked ahead. The person in front of her gaze was a young man with long red hair that was tied in a ponytail at the back of his head, and greyish-brown almond eyes. Everyone in Shinzui had black hair and black eyes but the royal family was different. They are said to be descendants of dragons and their hair and eye colours are different from the citizens.
Just like the rumours, the Crown Prince looked different from everyone here.
His hair and eye colours were different from the masses, but he also exuded a powerful and majestic aura that would convince anyone that he was truly a descendant of dragons.
He was around twenty years old. He had handsome and masculine facial features and wore an amber coloured zhijuHanfu worn by men that was embroidered with a rising dragon. Only members of the imperial family were allowed to wear such a zhiju.
He was a tall man with a soft demeanour, and he looked radiant.
“… It must be difficult for you to examine so many people by yourself.”
Prince Kousho’s voice was beautiful and low-pitched. Choumei nodded meekly.
“Yes. The people who live in Shinko are not very wealthy. But anyone can get sick or injured. This clinic is ready to accept any kind of patient. However, we just can’t afford to hire personnel or buy medicine and incenses.”
Kousho put his hand on Choumei’s shoulder with a sorry look on his face.
“I understand. We’ll make a donation to this clinic.”
“Yes, it’s a pleasure to be able to help such a virtuous doctor like you. I’m impressed with how well you’ve been keeping up this clinic by yourself.”
Riri saw that Choumei’s face had lit up and felt happy too.
(Yay, Doctor! I’m sure this will improve the clinic a little. He’s been saying that he wanted another doctor here for a long time. Even so, the Crown Prince looks kind. His words are polite and soft. I can see why he’s popular with everyone. He’s such a nice guy, but…)
Riri narrowed her eyebrows.
“This is my first time seeing the Crown Prince, but there’s something about him… I can’t really describe it… Hmm?”
She felt hazy when she looked at Kousho for some reason. As she was thinking about this, she suddenly smelled an unpleasant aroma coming from her right. She realised that the scent that was prickly at her nose was from when people sweat all at once when they were having some kind of seizure.
Normally, with so many people in the room, the scent of sweat would mix together making it hard to tell.
Still, the fact that she noticed this meant that someone nearby had had a very bad seizure. When she looked to her right, she saw the woman, who had just been blushing while looking at Kousho, had turned dark-red and her eyes were wide open.
The woman clawed at her throat and collapsed with a thud.
“Are you alright?! Hang in there!”
Riri quickly crouched down and turned the woman onto her back. The woman had fainted. Her face was getting darker and darker. Riri put her face close to the woman’s neck. The scent emanating from her was familiar to Riri.
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