There are always a lot of dark subjects in this world, Maomao thought.
She had thought of it as she sat on the boxes behind the laundry area.
It doesn’t seem like Shaoran will come today, and since Maomao didn’t have much work to do even if she went back, she decided to kill some time.
She had thought about going to the medical office to sponge off snacks from the quack doctor, but he seemed busy for these couple of days, wrapped up into something troubling, so she didn’t.
As for what is troubling, it was that perfume oil incident.
On the incident from the other day, Jinshi left for the other consorts’ place. Thereupon, he learnt that the maids had bought a lot from the caravans.
(Not like I don’t understand.)
Were they imported goods from far away, from over the deserts, over the seas, over the mountains, it would be given that the young maidens who were confined in a birdcage would yearn for it, their eyes shining.
Were there medicines introduced from the West stocked in the tents, even Maomao would go as far as to borrow money from the madam to acquire them.
She must not blame the court ladies who bought things.
Even the maids of the Jade Palace bought many things too.
It wasn’t that any of the products were dangerous. As wasteful as it was, nevermind how little there was, anything containing poison mustn’t be kept and had to be disposed of.
The amounts were minuscule when used separately, but when combined together, it could become a strong poison.
Well then, the problem of exactly “who” brought it in.
Currently, there are four high-ranked consorts in the inner palace.
Consort Gyokuyou, Consort Rifa, Consort Riishu, and Consort Rouran.
Among them, Consort Gyokuyou has the highest favour from the emperor, with Consort Rifa coming in second. In addition, she heard that there are several middle-ranked consorts who were the emperor’s chosen.
However, considering parental influence in the background, Consort Rouran is an existence extremely important to the emperor.
Maomao picked up a dead branch and drew an orchid1 on the ground.
It was Consort Rifa’s parents who were the next highest in terms of position. Though, as she related to the emperor from his maternal side, it was said that her family didn’t have the character to be that greedy for promotion.
She drew a fruit2 next to the orchid.
Conversely, it was Consort Riishu’s family who rose to prominence in these couple of generations, and it was well known that – having chosen their young daughter for the previous emperor – they were an ambitious family.
She drew a tree3 next to that.
Consort Gyokuyou’s family was in a trading post in the West. Although that gave a strong impression that it profited through commerce, it was actually situated close to the country border and seems to go through with having quite some defence expenditure. On top of that, it wasn’t a place that produced crops, so it wasn’t a place you could unconditionally call wealthy.
She finished off with drawing a leaf4.
Maomao had a question.
The attempted poisoning incident at the Garden Party last year. That was done by Previous Consort Ah Dou’s maid out of her own accord. The reason she did that wasn’t to cling onto power, but rather, it was out of a truly humane motive.
She understood that, but.
Who was the culprit for Consort Gyokuyou’s attempted poisoning incident from further back?
That remained uncertain.
As a result, the number of Consort Gyokuyou’s maids decreased by half, and it was said that the one who took the poison on behalf on the consort was still suffering from the after-effects.
(I feel that it’s not related to Ah Duo-sama.)
Ah Duo didn’t have the character to poison people like that. Saying that, Consort Rifa and Consort Riishu were the same.
Of course, this was Maomao’s opinion, she cannot assert whether that it really was the case.
It could be the case that the maids did it out of their own accord, and it might also be that there are people that were sent in from her family.
Not just high-ranked consorts, she also considered the middle-ranked consorts. After all, there are plenty of women in this place who are greedily vying for a higher position.
Maomao groaned as she traced the stick around the four pictures.
Then, she abandoned her thinking.
(What’s the point of thinking.)
Maomao was a mere maid, a throwaway piece of a food taster.
And so, she decided for a change of mood. For the enjoyment of the emperor, the inner palace had a lot of gardens. If there was a pine forest, there were also a bamboo thicket as well as an orchard.
(I guess it would be wild strawberries this season.)
If it was an extra month earlier, she could have harvested bamboo shoots, but that was over when she was cultivating roses in the Crystal Palace because of some fox glasses.
It was truly irritating, he was an unpleasant being by just recalling his face.
Just the act of thinking of changing her mood made her steps lighter, so she headed towards the grove of mixed trees at the corner of the inner palace. Along the way, she ended up bumping into the maids from the Crystal Palace.
As they were faces she knew, she greeted the court ladies with a slight nod, but their faces stiffened and they ended up running away. Even though one of them had small feet from foot-binding, she actually moved so fast that Maomao was unexpectantly impressed.
(So exaggerated. I just stripped them a little.)
It was a scene often seen in the brothels. Women, who were bought up to that level, first knock on the gates of the prostitution quarter and begin by getting their clothes stripped off to be evaluated.
Young blooming maidens seem to have high value, but compared to youth, intelligence was more mainstream nowadays. Unexpectantly, the wives of ruined officials garnered a high price. On top of reducing the initial investment as they had been thoroughly educated to a certain level, the fact that they were once another person’s wife in this society conversely gave an unpleasant idea of temptation.
It wasn’t that Maomao even stripped them because she liked it. For the court ladies who were attuned to fads, she had believed that all of them had been wearing the perfume they bought, but there were court ladies who weren’t the case. Maomao, thinking it strange, had only just gone to check whether they were wearing it or not.
Due to that, she was told on by the beautiful eunuch.
(Well, not like there was one person.)
The Crystal Palace had a lot of court ladies. There were more than ten people for maids alone, and if you include the exclusive maidservants there were about thirty people.
Without thinking too hard, Maomao went to search for wild strawberries.
When she returned carrying a lot of wild strawberries hidden in the washing basket, Airan told her that there was a letter in her room. The beanpole maid is smirking more than usual, she thought as she entered her room, and as she was told there was a simple letter on her desk.
(Who is it?)
She looked for the sender. There was ‘Rihaku’ written there. She recalled the young military officer who was like a spirited large-breed dog.
She opened the letter. Casual boring things like how he was surprised that she went back to the inner palace again and so forth were written on it. And then, afterwards, the main question of ‘Recently, I can’t meet up with Pairin, so can’tcha do something about it?‘ was relayed in a roundabout way. The man looked like even his brain was muscle, but it seems he wrote a high-level composition for what he hinted at the introduction, Maomao thought something truly impolite.
Pairin was popular, but she was already the age where it was a good time for her to retire as a prostitute. She must be thinking of taking over the shop as the madam, or getting redeemed by a rich patron.
It was unfortunate, but with Rihaku’s current wages, he cannot possibly afford the redeeming price.
(Sorry. Just give up.)
While thinking that, Maomao was going to finishing reading the letter, but then there seemed to be an addendum written at the end.
‘I want to return the ivory pipe I was holding onto last time. Also, there’s something I want to ask you. Can we meet up?‘
(Return? Did he not find the owner?)
She recalled the thing about the pipe she entrusted to Rihaku from quite a while ago.
(You mean that we can’t keep exchanging letter huh.)
Maomao tilted her head the strangely profound words as she stuffed her mouth with the wild strawberries from the basket.
- The 蘭Ran in 楼蘭Rouran means orchid.
- The 梨Ri in 梨花Rifa means pear.
- The 樹Shu in 里樹Riishu means tree.
- The 葉You in 玉葉Gyokuyou means leaf.