Volume 1, Chapter 16: Secret Manoeuvres

It was the Palace Official Chief’s room that Jinshi led her to.
The middle-aged court lady withdrew from the room at Jinshi’s directions.

Let’s say it honestly. It was completely impossible for her to be alone in the same room as this living being.

Even Maomao didn’t hate pretty things.
It’s just that she couldn’t forgive that he is excessively pretty, she felt that tiny flaw was like a sin. It was just like a polished gem with its value halved due to a hairline fracture.

That was why whenever she interacted with him, she would end up looking at him like a ground crawling insect.
There was nothing she could do about it.

(I want to interact with him like a piece of art.)

This was the lower middle-class citizen Maomao’s real intention.

She was relieved when Gaoshun came in to replace the palace lady.
Recently, the stoic attendant was in the process of becoming the healing type.

“How many colours are there for these?” Jinshi asked.

She lined up the powders she had taken from the medical office. “There’s red, yellow, blue, purple, and green. If you make a fine distinction, there are more. I don’t know the specific number.”

“Then, what can we do about those colours on the wooden slips?” he asked her.

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It was impossible to strike it alight when it is in the form of powder. That would be weird whatever the circumstances.

“If it’s salt, you can just add salt water. I think this too can be done the same way.” She put away the white powder. “The other ones look like they can be removed with something other than water. This too, is outside my expertise, so I don’t know.”

“It’s good enough.” The youth crossed in arms, deep in thought.

Just this would paint a picture.

She knew that Jinshi had seized various things from the inner palace.


The things Maomao had said just now have become the basis for something – it seems the scattered pieces of information was getting connected in his head.

(A cipher…I wonder?)

The answer she reached would likely be the same as him. However, Maomao repeatedly acknowledged that it should not be said.

The pheasant would not be shot but for its cries.

As she would not be needed beyond this, she was going to leave,

“Wait,” Jinshi said.

She was called to a halt. “What do you require?”

“I like dobin mushi(土瓶蒸し, food steam-boiled in an earthenware teapot, commonly made with matsutake mushroom…).”

There was no need to say, “of what?”

(I just knew I’ve been caught.)

Dropping her shoulders, “I’ll go look for some tomorrow as well.” she told him.

○●○

When he affirmed that the door had closed with a click, Jinshi dropped his sweet, honey smile. Instead, his gaze became crystal sharp. “Look for people who bear recent burns on their arm. For the time being, investigate those with rooms and upwards, and their maids as well.”

“By your will.”

After Gaoshun withdrew, the Palace Official Chief entered.

“Thank you very much. For always lending me your place,” Jinshi told her.

“T-there’s no problem.” She blushed in spite of her age.

Jinshi was smiling again, his expression like heavenly nectar.

Nevertheless, he should be like this to women.

For only just a moment did his lips purse, and when he left the room, the smile back to the usual.

○●○

“Okay, try wearing this.” Infa, her maid senior, held out brand-new clothes to Maomao.

The colours were unbleached white for the tunic, pale red for the skirt and the sleeves were a pale yellow and reached out larger than usual.
Though it wasn’t silk, it was made from high quality cotton.

“What is, this?” Maomao said.

Though the colours were appropriately plain for a maidservant, it wasn’t a design for practical use. Furthermore, they were clothes that opened widely at the breast area. Maomao having never worn such clothes, made a blatantly reluctant expression.

“What, you say. It’s the outfit for the Garden Party,” Infa said.

“The Garden Party?” Maomao, who was completely doted upon her maid senior’s favour, besides tasting for poison and making medicine every day, ran about outside harvesting medicinal plants, chattered with Shaoran and had tea at the medical office. Therefore, she had heard little about the topic of the elite.

Infa, with a look of amazement, informed Maomao, who tilted her head.

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About the opening of high society at the imperial court garden twice a year.
The emperor, who doesn’t have an empress, will bring along Primary First Class(正一品) Consorts. The palace ladies who serve those consorts will also accompany.

In the inner palace, Consort Gyokuyou is crowned as the “Noble Consort(贵妃)”, and Consort Rifa the “Able Consort(賢妃).”
Aside from those two, including the “Virtuous Consort(德妃)” and the “Pure Consort(淑妃)”, they make the Four Madames(四夫人). They make up the Primary First Rank.

Originally, only the “Virtuous Consort” and the “Pure Consort” was supposed to attend the Winter Garden Party. However, as Consort Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa were absent last time due to having just given birth, it was made that all of them will attend this time.

“All of them attend, you say?” Maomao said.

“Indeed, we’d better be mindful.” That was the reason for Infa’s pride.

Even at the best of times, on top of the rare chance to go outside the inner palace, it was a loaded event with Imperial Princess Rinrii’s debut and the high-ranking consorts appearing altogether.

For the sake of Consort Gyokuyou who had few maids, Maomao had no way of turning it down for reasons of being unaccustomed to it. She knew that a food taster would be highly regarded, especially for that sort of public location.

(There might be bloodshed.)

Maomao’s intuition hit the mark.
She hit the troubling matter.

“It would be better if we padded the breast area a little. Would it be okay if we also enlarge the butt area?” Infa asked.

“I’ll leave it to you,” Maomao said.

Infa, after fastening the sash with a tight squeeze, adjusting the height of her skirt and length of her sleeves, again moved in with a finishing blow. “You should properly put on make-up too. You should occasionally put in some effort into hiding your freckles.”

It goes without saying she returned a stiff smile to Infa, who was grinning widely.

- my thoughts:
The class rankings (e.g. 正一品 Primary First Class) is an official ranking that applies to both government officials and the emperor's consorts and concubines. There are nine rankings in all, and each level is divided into two sub-ranking (正-primary or 從-secondary) = 18 ranks total. A high-ranking official would have a title between 1-3, middle-ranking 4-6, low-ranking 7-9. The consort ranks are based on Tang Dynasty titles.
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