“Ahh, so it’s as I thought.”
“Yeah, I heard that’s what the Doctor-sama saw when he went in.”
Maomao was slurping her soup as she listened in. There were several hundred maidservants eating breakfast in the vast dining hall. It consisted of a soup and millet porridge.
The maidservant, who was sitting diagonally across from her, continued to gossip. She had an expression of pity, but more than that, curiosity shone from the depths of her eyes.
“It was the same for both Gyokuyou-sama(玉葉, Yu Ye), and Rifa-sama(梨花, Li Hua).”
“Uwahh, so it was the both of them. They’re only half a year and three months, right?”
“Yeah. Could it really be the curse?”
The names they mentioned were the favoured consorts of the emperor. Half a year and three months were the respective ages of the imperial children they had given birth to.
Gossip throws its weight around in the palace. They are about the palace ladies who consorted with the emperor, and his successors – if there are those about their infamy due to bullying and prejudice, there are also those that are like ghost stories appropriate for the sweltering heat.
“I guess so. Otherwise, there’s no reason for those three to pass away as well.”
The ones who had passed away are the children born from consorts. That is, the imperial children who could have been chosen as successors. There had been one when the emperor was the crown prince, and now as the emperor, two. All of them passed away when they were infants. It’s a given that infants have a high mortality rate, but it is strange for it to have been three children from a court noble.
As of now, the only survivors are the two children of Consort Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa.
(Could it be poisoning?)
While her mouth was full of hot water, Maomao’s thoughts reached a different conclusion.
Among the three children, two had been imperial princesses. As only boys had the right to succession, there are few reasons to kill princesses.
The two who sat in front of her spoke of curses and calamities without moving their chopsticks.
(There is no such curse.)
Absurd. It all boiled down to that single word. There is a law on familial extermination by simply setting a curse – Maomao’s thoughts could be taken as heresy instead. However, she had the knowledge she could assert her basis on.
(What kind of illness? Could it be genetic? How did they pass away?)
It was then the quiet and unsociable maidservant spoke to the talkative maidservant.
The regret she got from losing to her curiosity was something for a little while later.
“I don’t know the details but, it was said they all gradually weakened.” The talkative maid, Shaoran(小蘭, Xiao Lan), seemed to be interested to have Maomao talking to her. She also told her about the all the rumours afterwards.
“I believe Rifa-sama has it worse, seeing how the doctor has been seeing her more often.” She had said as she wiped down the window frame with a wrung dust-cloth.
“Yeah, mother and child both.”
The fact that the doctor was seeing Consort Rifa would have to be more the fact that her child is the crown prince rather than who was sicker. Consort Gyokuyou’s child is an imperial princess.
The emperor’s favour ran deeper for Consort Gyokuyou, but it’s clear from the gender of the children who is the more important one.
“While I don’t know the specifics of the symptoms, of course, I heard there were things like headache, stomach ache, and nausea.”
Shaoran went to her next job, seemingly satisfied about talking about everything she knew.
Maomao gave her liquorice tea as an expression of gratitude. She had made it from the ones that grew on the edges of the courtyard. Though it had a medicinal stench, it was very sweet. The maidservant who rarely tasted sweetness had been overjoyed from that.
(Headache, stomach ache, and nausea…)
Maomao she recalled the symptoms, she could not reach a decision.
You must not think of things through speculation alone, her dad had told her severely.
(I’ll go take a look in a bit.)
Maomao decided to quickly finish her work.
The scale of the inner palace, even if you put it all together, is massive. Normally, there are two thousand palace ladies and over five hundred stay-in eunuchs.
Though maidservants like Maomao are crammed into large rooms in groups of ten, low-ranking consorts have their own rooms, middle-ranking consorts have buildings and high-ranking consorts have huge palaces larger than towns complete with a dining hall and a garden.
As a result, Maomao has never left her station on the east side. The only time she was ever free to leave is when she’s given a task.
(If I have nothing to do, I can just make do with something.)
Maomao spoke to a palace lady who was carrying a basket. The basket in the palace lady’s arms had high-quality silk that must be washed in the pool on the west side. It would be damaged if it was washed on the east side, whether it be due to the water quality or having different people to wash it.
Though Maomao knew about the difference of drying it in the shade on the deterioration of silk, it wasn’t something she needed to say.
“I want to see the extremely beautiful eunuch I heard is in the central area,” Maomao said.
After they talked about something Maomao had incidentally heard from Shaoran, the palace lady gladly swapped over for her.
Here where the incentive for romance is scarce, it appears that even eunuchs can be a target for motivation. After palace ladies resign, you can hear that some become the wives of eunuchs once in a while. It was still normal when compared to having affairs with women, but that tilted heads, of course.
(I wonder if I will turn out like that?)
Maomao groaned and crossed her arms when she asked herself that.
After she quickly delivered the laundry basket, Maomao looked at the red building that was situated in the central area. It was an extravagant palace, more refined than the east area.
As of now, the crown prince’s mother, Consort Rifa, resided in the largest room in the inner palace. While the emperor is lacking an empress, it can be said that Consort Rifa with the only male child is the most influential person.
The spectacle she saw inside that place was not much different to what she saw in town.
There was a scolding woman, a woman hanging her head in shame, flustered women, and a man who was acting as the mediator.
(It’s not much different to a brothel.)
With extremely cool impressions, Maomao joined the third parties – in other words, the rubbernecks.
The scolding woman was the inner palace’s most influential person. The one looking down was the next powerful. The flustered ones were their maids. And the one who came to mediate was the doctor who was already no longer male. That was what she gleaned from the surrounding whispers.
“It’s your fault. It’s because you gave birth to a daughter that you wanted to curse the male infant to death, isn’t that right!” Consort Rifa’s beautiful face was distorted to something terrifying. With her demonic looks and her ghostly white skin, the consort faced the beauty who was holding her cheek.
“You know it’s impossible for me to do such a thing. Shaorin(小鈴, Xiao Ling) is also suffering the same way.” The woman with red hair and jade eyes replied coldly. Consort Gyokuyou with her western features gazed up at the doctor’s face.“And so, I want you to see my daughter’s condition as well,” she said.
Although the doctor was acting as the mediator, it seems he was the reason for the outburst.
The doctor had just seen crown prince – it seems she had raised a protest about him not seeing her own daughter.
It wasn’t that Maomao didn’t understand mothers, but it was a given that male infants came first in the hierarchy of the inner palace.
Considering the doctor, she saw that he had a face that wanted to say ‘unfounded’ though.
(Is he an idiot, that quack?)
The fact that he didn’t notice with the two consorts standing so close to him. No, he didn’t even know about it before that?
The death of the infants. Headaches. Stomach aches. Nausea. And Consort Rifa’s white skin and unsteady body.
Maomao left the scene of discord while muttering and grumbling to herself.
(What can I use to write?)
Consequently, she took no notice of a passing person.