By Natsu Hyuuga and Touko Shino. Released in Japan as “Kusuriya no Hitorigoto” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.
For most of the volume this almost seems like a short story book, with Maomao running around dealing with various things one by one. It’s only when we get near the end that we realize that all the stories we’d seen earlier are all tying together, and all of them are there to show off Maomao and how good she is at what she does, whether that be medicine, or crime-solving, or even just being blunt as hell. She may be annoyed about all of this, but she still does it, mostly for the promise of good food, good medicine, or the chance to avoid people that she’d rather never deal with again, i,e, Lakan, who is slightly less annoying than he normally is in these books, but that’s only because he’s performing the equivalent of a wake. And this all culminates in a final scene that I really don’t want to spoil, which is basically “who gets Maomao?”, and the consequences are larger than you think.
Maomao spends a lot of the book with Yao and En’en by her side, wondering offhandedly if this might be that thing humans call… friendship? She’s just gotten a pile of Go books written by Lakan, presumably as a present, and she’s desperate to sell them, especially when she hears how much people might actually be willing to pay for a book written by a legendary player. But first she has to solve the question of why the consistency of the makeup at a store has changed, the question of which of three identical triplets raped an underage girl, and the question of who stole – or sabotaged – the Empress’ hair stick, perhaps as a threat. All of this culminates in a massive Go tournament, with the rumor being that if anyone can defeat Lakan, he will grant them one wish. The rumor is fake, but that doesn’t stop someone from wondering if this is a way to solve his problems…
After featuring heavily in the first few books, we haven’t seen much of Gyokuyou recently, and this book tries to make up for it. She’s not having a great time right now. Her servants keep leaving (as tends to happen, they mostly leave to get married), and new ones are not coming her way because of her manipulative brother. Fortunately, she has a set of identical triplets (no relation, though they also are caught up in one of the crimes Maomao has to solve) to help her, but her oldest attendant is now over 30 and still not married, which is worrying. She *really* misses Maomao, who is a masterclass at cutting to the heart of everything. Unfortunately, she’s reckoned without the fact that Jinshi is ALSO really missing Maomao, and he’s far more obsessed with her than Gyokuyou is. I will not spoil the final scene, but it’s dynamite, with Maomao for once not being able to do anything as the three most powerful people in the country fight over her.
It does leave the question of where we go from here. The blurb for the 9th novel is suitably vague, so we shall see. Till then, please enjoy another book of this very prickly young woman who absolutely everyone adores.