Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 8: The Day before the Audience
On the third day of free time, Wang accompanied Ashiyowa out to purchase some souvenirs for the village couple.
The meals served at the mansion were luxurious as always, and the days where Ashiyowa bought fruit and vegetables from the market to sate his hunger continued. Other than souvenirs, he spent his money on liquor, and had even visited some brothels. And somewhere along the way, his ragged clothing had been discarded for something more decent.
As always, Ashiyowa’s unchanging naivete only led to trouble. He was saved by Wang when he was accused of making advances on a married woman upon gifting her some hair ornaments. Thankfully, she was happy with two pieces, costing Ashiyowa a total of one silver. The other silver coin was broken into bronze coins to purchase food and this would probably last him until the audience. Rather, he was finding it hard to imagine what he would do with the remaining silvers after the audience.
It was the day before the audience.
Since morning, they’ve been instructed on the etiquette required for the audience, of how they should enter the hall, and upon doing so, the correct procedure for worship.
“Oh my, don’t tell me you can’t even kneel…”
They were all asked to gather at the mansion’s courtyard. Those who had a hard time remembering the procedures were placed in a separate group to receive more intensive instruction by the officials.
“No, um… I just need more time…”
While saying this, Ashiyowa placed both his knees on the ground. He then lowered his hips, such that it touched his heels, before placing his hands in front of himself, and finally lowering his upper body into a bow――.
“Hrmph. Too slow! Your sluggish movements will disrupt the whole line.”
Ten people would line up at a time for the audience.
Only when their names were called, were they permitted to lift their faces and answer, to lay their eyes upon the Emperor.
“Well, it can’t be helped. We shall try and arrange for you to be placed at the end of the line.”
“It seems that you can speak. Good. But…”
Sweat ran down the forehead of the young official.
“What’s with your hair… and those clothes! I thought I instructed everyone to dress in attire appropriate for tomorrow’s audience before gathering here. Do you intend to meet the Emperor in that state?”
The official, at the peak of frustration and fatigued under the heat, called for his subordinate.
“Get someone from the mansion to cut his hair. It’ll be better than how messy it is now. And, ask them for any spare robes. His current attire looks no better than the toilet cleaners’.
Wang, exempted from today’s instruction, had gone out. When he came back that night, he found an unfamiliar man sitting with his right leg stretched out by the window of the room.
“Wang, welcome back.”
“Thanks… Your hair.”
Ashiyowa placed a hand on top of his head, sinking it into his now shortened hair.
His hair was much noticeably shorter and there was a set of folded robes at his knees.
The servants, unhappy at their increased workload and frustrated with Ashiyowa’s stiff hair, had initially cut it with a knife, wanting to finish quickly.
Realising what they had done, the servants panicked and tried to fix so that it would look decent, but in the end, Ashiyowa’s hair had become short enough that you could see his scalp through it.
“Yes… They cut it.”
“Ah… It suits you quite well.”
It was much better than the previous state of his hair, unkempt and messy.
The man in front of Wang was somewhat fair, his skin-colour slightly yellow with warm undertones, and his nose could only be described as beautiful, straight, and with a high bridge. Everyone in the mansion shaved their beards at least twice a day, and some, concerned about their appearance, even more.
And now that Wang had a clearer glimpse of his face, he could tell that Ashiyowa’s normal appearance made him look older than he was, aging his features especially around his eyes and mouth.
His eyes were pitch black. He seemed to be gazing downward, as if deep in thought, his eyes, somewhat glazed as if he were elsewhere.
Loud footsteps echoed through the room, indicating that their roommates were back. It had become something like a routine for them to head out for a drink every night. It seemed they had enough of basking in the excitement of the Royal City for the night.
“Oh, it’s Wang. Welcome back. If we ran into each other outside, we could’ve shared a drink.”
“It looks like everyone has arrived safely today. I trust the day was uneventful.” Wang remarked sarcastically.
The men sat down and laughed out loud, oblivious to the true intent behind Wang’s words.
“As you all know, the audience with His Majesty is tomorrow.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve had to stop helping out on farm just to come here, so if I left without even being able to describe His Majesty to my mother back home, I can’t imagine how mad she’d be――”
“Your mom, huh.”
The room erupted in laughter once again.
Wang glanced at Ashiyowa.
“Do you like sake, Ashi-dono?”
“No… Not used to drinking…”
Though the men in the room were roughly the same age, Ashiyowa’s naivety made him more akin to a young man. Everything was unknown and unfamiliar, a new experience.
Wang nodded with his chin out, advising that he best not overdo it.
Wang wouldn’t return even after the audience.
He was initially planning to return to the Capital anyway, so this opportunity was all the more convenient for him. He intended to work at the Imperial Court and was out for that very reason today, going around here and there to explore his options. His hometown was near the Capital, a place called Kasei where his father resided as a feudal lord.
Wang took out a fan from his girdle and spread it out, fanning his face. Behind them, the drunken men were laughing loudly like fools.
Only Wang and Ashiyowa remained quiet.
While fanning himself, Wang just stared at Ashiyowa’s side profile, taking in his new appearance. Once the audience was over, he wondered if they’d ever meet again.