Volume 1, Chapter 19: Garden Party (1)

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The Garden Party was a banquet held in the middle court. A crimson carpet had been laid out in a large gazebo. There were two rows of long tables, with the seat of honour established at the far end.

The arrangement was that the emperor will be sitting on the seat of honour, with the empress dowager and the imperial brother on both his sides. The Noble Consort and the Able Consort will be sitting on the east side, and the Virtuous Consort and Pure Consort, the west side. With the death of the crown prince, the current imperial brother from the same mother was currently first in the line of succession.

Still, Maomao could only think they were arranged like this to start a quarrel. It cannot be helped if the Four Madame’s hostility were stirred up this way.

The Imperial Brother lives an obscure lifestyle in spite of his mother being the empress dowager.
He was supposed to sit on the seat of honour, belying his public appearance, but the seat was empty. He rarely leaves his room due to his weak constitution and doesn’t perform his official duties either.
There are all sorts of speculation circulating about him. Some say the many years younger brother is pampered by the emperor. Or that he is confined to his room. Or that he isn’t allowed to go outside, as the Empress Dowager dotes on him too much.

Well, that had nothing to do with Maomao.

The dishes came out past noon. She was now enjoying acrobatics and dance performances.
Only the head maid Honnyan accompanied Consort Gyokuyou. As far as they were not needed, the other maids waited for instructions behind the curtain.

The princess was being rocked by the Empress Dowager. The woman’s drifting elegance and her unfading beauty did not pale in comparison to the Four Madames around her.

(They should prepare more cover.)

Although it was a curtain, it was only good enough to give shade. It did nothing as a windbreaker.

Even Maomao and the others, who had hand warmers, found it cold. It must be unbearable for the other consorts and their maids.

As expected, the other backup maids were trembling; some of them were standing pigeon-toed. She thought that right now would be a good time to go to the toilet, but considering the other consorts’ maids’ standpoints, they might not be able to go.

Worryingly, the Four Madames’ maids are wishing for a war by proxy for their masters.

The head maids, who had the position warn them against doing this, were by their respective consorts’ sides. There was no one to stop them.

At present, the image of the dispute was “Consort Gyokuyou’s army vs. Consort Rifa’s army”, and “Pure Consort’s army vs. Virtuous Consort’s army”. By the way, the whole of Consort Gyokuyou’s military camp had four people; not even half of the maids on the other side. Though it was somewhat unfavourable, Infa tried her best.

“Hah, plain, you say? You stupid? A maid is someone who serves a master, right? What’s the point of dressing up for no reason?”

It seems they were having a dispute over their outfits. The outfit of the maids on the other side, as they served Consort Rifa, were blue themed, with a shawl and lots of accessories. A whole lot gaudier compared to their own.

“What are you saying? Your master will have it hard if you look bad. I knew it. They can only employ that plain woman.”

(Hey, looks like I’m being made a fool before everyone’s eyes.)

Maomao thought about other people’s affairs. Needless to say, the plain woman was none other than herself.

The palace lady who had puffed out her chest with pride was one of the people Maomao had opposed before. Though the woman had a strong personality, she lacked the guts to go with it, and for every little thing, she would say, “Do as my father said.” She was much too loud and exchanged verbal insults. When Maomao told her, “Then, don’t tell people what to do and use your body to do it”, she became frightened and wouldn’t approach her.

(Did she not get the prostitute style joke?)

At the very least it wasn’t something aimed towards an ignorant young lady.

“If there are things you don’t want people to see, you put them away, right? It’s shameful to bring along such an ugly woman. And you even gave her a single jewel accessory.”

It seemed that she noticed Maomao’s circumstances completely.

(What a mean thing to say. Even though we were together for two months.)

When she saw the other two maids hold back Infa who was on the verge of diving in to attack, Maomao thought it would be about time for her to make them quiet down.

Maomao, who was standing in the close behind Infa and the others, looked towards the blue-clad maids with her hand over her nose.

A maid, who had narrowed her eyes dubiously having noticed something, whispered into the ears of the maid next to her.
Just like a game of Chinese Whispers, when the message finally passed to the last maid, the maids, intimidated, raised shaking fingers, their mouths opened in overwhelmed fluster.

(Did they finally notice me?)

Maomao made her characteristic smile that looked like a wolf that caught its prey to the maids.

“A, aa, aaaahh.”

“Wha-what is it?” Infa, who didn’t know that Maomao was grinning behind her, doubted her opponents who suddenly trembled like small animals.

“Ah, aaah. W-we’ll let you win this time. B-be thankful.” The maid spat out a parting remark that didn’t make any sense and moved off to the edge of the curtain. Even though there were other free spaces, they chose to move to the place furthest from Maomao’s group.

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Seeing the dumbfounded Infa and the other maids,

(They really were hurt….)

Maomao thought.

Infa recovered and met Maomao’s gaze, “Gosh, those jerks from before. Sorry about that. For making you feel unpleasant. Even though you are really this cute.” the apologetic Infa said.

“Don’t worry about it. Leaving that aside, would you like to replace your hand warmer?”

“No, it’s still warm, it’s fine. At any rate, why did they suddenly start trembling like that?”

“Who knows. Maybe they wanted to go flower picking?” Maomao said shamelessly.

By the way, the current Maomao had the setup of a young girl who, in addition to being made a disposable pawn of a food taster after being sold from being chastised by her parent, had endured two months of grand bullying at the Crystal Palace, and fell to distrusting cruel men to the point of defiling her own face.

It was troubling that Infa and the other’s delusional strength was impressive for their age.

Maomao was also troubled by the image of Jinshi, who had bumped into her, a personage like a celestial maiden being concerned about a pitiful girl.

No matter who you look at it, it was a marvel.




On the other side, another war by proxy was continuing.

The numbers were seven vs. seven.
Maids dressed white outfits and maid dressed in dark coloured outfits.
The former were the Virtuous Consort’s maids, and the latter were the Pure Consort’s.

“That side also has a bad relationship,” Infa said seriously. “Their ages are fourteen, and thirty-five. Even though they are both consorts, their ages are far apart enough to be mother and child, and they don’t get along either.”

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“The novice is the Virtuous Consort, and the one with the long service is the Pure Consort. That is, well, there is a lot to say about it,” said the quiet maid, Gui’en(貴園, Gui Yuan).

“That’s true. And they used to be daughter in law and mother in law.” The tall maid, Airan(愛藍, Ai Lan), nodded as well.

“Daughter-in-law and Mother-in-law?” Maomao heard about something that didn’t seem like something from the inner palace. She tilted her head.

“Indeed, it’s a little complex.”

The two had the relationship of the previous emperor’s consort and the crown prince’s consort.

The time the previous emperor passed away, his consort became a nun to observe mourning.
However, it was said that, publicly, as she had retired from the real world once, it was decided that she had not served the previous emperor, so she was now married to the son.

(The previous emperor’s era was five years ago.)

At the time, whether it was due to some long talk due to politics or whatever, the Virtuous Consort was nine years old. It was said she became a consort at that age.

(No matter what kind of lusts there are, that isn’t something you hear.)

As she recalled the emperor with the beautiful beard, the comment she then heard made her know the shocking truth.

“It’s impossible, isn’t it? That the mother in law was nine-years-old.”

Airan told her something that was hard to believe.

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