Consort Rifa’s condition was worse than she had thought.
Although the cereal porridge was remade into a thin rice gruel, she made no indication of slurping from a spoon. Maomao had to prise her mouth open and slowly pour it in to make her swallow.
She couldn’t take in food. That was the biggest issue.
She had to be patiently and insistently fed.
When Maomao went to ventilate the room, the clogging fragrance subsided and was replaced by the smell of a sick person.
They probably burned incense to hide the scent of body odour. It didn’t seem like that the consort had bathed for a couple of days. Maomao’s resentment for the useless maids grew.
The discipline seemed to have got through to the maids she chastised. The stock of the face powder had been snuck in. Pitifully, the one who got whipped was the eunuch who had failed to collect the face powder. Punishment was also influenced by their birth.
Although Maomao glared at the supervising eunuch with contempt as if to call him “incompetent thing”, she felt that it wouldn’t accomplish anything.
She prepared a pail and a cloth, and together with the maids she summoned, wiped the consort down. The maids had looked at her in disapproval but became docile when Maomao glared at them.
Her skin was dry, lips were painfully cracked from the lack of hydration. She coated her lips with honey instead of rouge and tied her hair up simply.
Afterwards, Maomao made the consort drink tea at every opportunity. Sometimes, she gave her watered down broth instead of tea.
The number of times the consort urinated increased.
Though Maomao thought she would be aimed with hostility, being the questionable newcomer, the doll-like Consort Rifa generally obediently listened to her. It might be that her blank eyes didn’t recognise who was who.
She increased the amount of the thin rice gruel from half a bowl to one bowl all at once, and little by little, increased the amount of rice used to make it. So that she could start to swallow on her own without being needed to be held up by the chin, Maomao increased the servings of soup steeped with the flavour of meat, and grated fruit.
Consort Rifa’s lips suddenly moved when she could go to relieve herself without help. “Why ca…, let m….”
To pick up the words that Consort Rifa leaked out, Maomao stood next to her.
“Why can’t you, let me die like this?” she said in a soft, vanishing voice.
Maomao raised her eyebrows. “Then, I’ll take away your meals. That you’re eating the porridge, means that you don’t want to die, right?” she said and held the warmed tea against Consort Rifa’s mouth.
There was an audible swallow,
“Is that so….”
A broken smile escaped.
The responses the maids gave towards Maomao could be split into two groups.
The ones afraid of her, and the ones who opposed her while being afraid of her.
(Did I overdo it?)
It can’t be helped, she thought. She had a bad habit of over-reacting whenever her emotions pass her boiling point.
Although unsociable, Maomao was generally easy-going. She was plainly hurt by the being looked at from a distance like she was a demon or an ogre.
In this case, it couldn’t be helped as she needed to nurse Consort Rifa.
She didn’t know whether it was the emperor or Consort Gyokuyou’s command, the sparkling Jinshi-dono frequently appeared for her. With his authority to use anything that could be used, he had a bathroom constructed at top speed for her at the Crystal Palace. In addition to the bathroom that was there originally, they made a sauna.
“I don’t have a need for you anymore, so go away already”, Maomao told him in her roundabout way, but Jinshi, whom Maomao treated like a monster, came smiling at every opportunity.
He’s a eunuch with too much free time.
She wanted him to learn from observing Gaoshun who comes over each time with a box of snacks for her.
He could become a good husband with that sort of diligence. But he’s a eunuch.
The consort took in fibre and hydration to sweat and promote bowel movement.
While thinking just about eliminating the poison from her body, two months passed until Consort Rifa was able to go out for a walk by herself.
From the start, her weakness from the nervous breakdown had been serious. It should be a non-issue if she didn’t newly take in poison.
It will take time for her to recover her voluptuous body from before, but the colour had returned to her cheeks, and she was no longer hovering over the brink of death.
The night before she returned to the Jade palace, Maomao went to Consort Rifa’s place to greet her.
Maomao had expected to be slandered as a peasant if the consort’s conscious was clear, but it wasn’t the case.
There was conceit, but there wasn’t arrogance. The thing about the crown prince had made her imagine her an unpleasant young lady, but in truth, she had the appropriate personality of an empress.
“Well then, I will be excused tomorrow morning.” Maomao planned to leave the room after explaining to her about her medical diet from hereon after and various other important points when,
“Hey, can I no longer give birth?” the consort spoke in a flat voice.
“I don’t know. You won’t know unless you try.” Maomao answered.
“Even though I lost the emperor’s favour?”
What Consort Rifa was trying to say was understandable enough.
From the start, her being blessed with the crown prince was because she slept with the emperor to obstruct the Favoured Consort, Consort Gyokuyou.
The births of the imperial princess and the crown prince being three months apart were something truly talked about.
“I was commanded to come here by the emperor. After I go back, it doesn’t mean that the emperor would also come to Rifa-sama’s place,” Maomao said.
That was not a question even if it was political or emotional.
The way it was done was the same.
“Can I win against her, a woman who didn’t listen to Consort Gyokuyou’s words and killed her own child before her very eyes?” Consort Rifa asked.
“I think whether you win or not isn’t an issue. Also, mistakes are something you learn from,” Maomao answered.
Maomao took hold of a single-flower vase that decorated the wall. It was adorned with a blooming star-shaped flower, a Chinese Bellflower. “The world has a hundred, a thousand flowers. If you must pick between the peony and the iris, I think the most beautiful one is the one you’re fixed on, is it not?”
“I don’t have the barbarian princess’ jade eyes and pale hair.”
“If you have other things, then there’s no issue.” Maomao said and her gaze wandered down from Consort Rifa’s face. Normally, it was said that is the part where you lose weight from first, but she had two proper sized melons on her chest.
“Aside from just the size of them, the bounciness, and the shape of them are something to be proud of.”
For Maomao, who gained a discerning eye from the brothel, she was certain. It was a secret that she was fascinated about it every time she was made to bath.
As one who served Consort Gyokuyou, although there wasn’t a way for her support Consort Rifa, she decided to give her one last present.
“Can you lend me your ears for a bit?” Mumbling so that no one around them could hear, she taught Consort Rifa a certain thing.
It was a secret art that was “no loss to learn” of the ladies of the pleasure district.
Among the maids, it became a topic of discussion of for some time, about what Consort Rifa, whose face had turned as red as an apple, had heard.
Afterwards, at the Jade Palace, the emperor’s visits decreased to a record low.
“Fuu, I have been released from my lack of sleep.”
At those words, laced with cynicism at what Consort Gyokuyou had said, Maomao’s wandering eyes were yet another story.