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That poisoning incident turned out to be rather serious.
Shaoran fervently rushed to ask Maomao.
(There’s probably no way that she would think that I am related to the incident.)
The image of Shaoran stuffing her cheeks with hawthorn while swinging her legs made her look younger than she was.
“It’s a maid from Maomao’s place, right? The one who eats poison,” Shaoran asked.
“I guess so.” Maomao didn’t lie.
“I only just heard that there was that kind of person, but I don’t know anything else. Is she okay?”
“I guess so.” Maomao skirted the topic again, somehow feeling very uncomfortable about it. Shaoran, at a loss for what to do, pouted.
Shaoran swung her skewer that had one piece of hawthorn left. It looked like a blood-red coral ball kanzashi. “Well, then. Did you get any kanzashi and stuff?”
Four in all, imbued with gratitude. She also included Consort Gyokuyou’s necklace.
“How nice. I guess you’ll be leaving here, then.”
“What did you just say?” Maomao asked.
“Huh? Aren’t you going to leave?”
Infa had been saying it insistently.
Maomao was the one who had brushed if off herself.
She was troubled at her failure.
She shook her head as she fell into self-hatred.
She looked at Shaoran who gazed at her dubiously. “Tell me everything about that.”
Shaoran puffed out her chest at the sight of an unusually motivated Maomao.“’Kay, will do.”
And the talkative girl taught her how to use the kanzashi.
Rihaku was summoned after his training.
As he was sweating, he handed his edgeless sword to his subordinate.
A delicate eunuch handed a bamboo slip and a woman’s kanzashi to him.
It was one of the kanzashi among the several he handed out before, a kanzashi decorated with peach-coloured coral.
He didn’t think anyone would take it seriously, knowing that it was courtesy, but it turns out it wasn’t the case.
It would be bad to embarrass her, but it was also troubling to actually go through with it.
However, it would be a loss for him if she was a beauty.
He looked at the wooden slip as he thought of ways to gently reject her.
‘Jade Palace Maomao’
That was written there.
He handed it out to only one of the palace ladies of the Jade Palace.
It could only be that expressionless maid.
Mystified, Rihaku stroked his chin as he prepared for a change of clothes.
The inner palace is forbidden to actual men.
Rihaku, who really didn’t want to be cut down, was in the obviously forbidden garden. He probably wouldn’t be here after this, it would be troubling if he was.
Though it was such a terrifying place, if he had special permission, he could summon a palace lady from inside.
This kanzashi was one of the ways of doing that. One of the many.
Borrowing the office of the central gate, he waited for the person he summoned.
The room, which wasn’t really wide, had two persons’ number of tables and chairs. The doors on both sides each had a eunuch standing there.
A skinny, short maid appeared from the door of the inner palace side.
Freckles and spots covered the area around her nose.
“Who the hell are you?” he said.
“I get that often.” The maid, who replied with blunt indifference, covered her nose with her palm. A face he’d seen before appeared.
“Don’t tell me you’re disguised with make-up?”
“I get that often,” she said.
He took in the truth without a look of displeasure.
He got the gist of it.
That she was that food taster maid.
However, he just couldn’t link her to that fascinating smile of a courtesan when he looked at her face that was covered in spots.
It was a matter of fact that she was a mysterious person.
“However, to still call me out like this, do you know the meaning of it?” He crossed his arms. Crossed his legs too.
As the military official with the large build was in the middle of sitting down arrogantly, the short girl confidently spoke out.
“I was thinking of returning home.” She said it without any strong feeling.
Rihaku scratched his head.“And, you want me to help?”
“That’s right. If you can guarantee my identity, I heard it is possible for me to return home for a short time.” She voiced something unexpected.
He wanted to ask her, “Do you know the original meaning?”
No matter, it seems this girl called Maomao was using him to go home. It wasn’t to catch the military official.
Maybe she was bold, maybe she was reckless.
Rihaku snorted, hands on his chin.
It could be said that his behaviour was bad, he didn’t feel like correcting it. “The hell? Are you saying that I am going to be thoroughly used by a lass?”
Rihaku is a nice guy, but he makes a scary face when he scowls.
The type of face that, when he rebukes a slackening subordinate, would reduce them to the point of even apologising for something they were unrelated to.
And yet, her brows barely twitched.
She only gazed at him expressionlessly.
“No, I only want to give thanks to these people.” Maomao placed a tied-up bundle of wooden slips on the table.
They looked like letters of introduction.
“Meimei(梅梅, Mei Mei). Pairin(白鈴, Bai Ling). Joga(女華, Nv Hua).”
Names of women that Rihaku had heard of before. No, a lot of other men besides Rihaku should know these names.
“You mean to see the flowers of Rokushoukan(緑青館, Verdigris Hall)?” That was the name of the high-class brothel that exhausts one year’s worth of silver in a single night. The names just then, were the favourites called the Three Princesses.
“If you’re worried, you’ll understand if you see this.” The girl smiled at him, only curving her lips.
“You’re joking,” he said.
“As you can verify.”
It was something completely unbelievable.
At best, it was difficult to think of that a maid of such calibre had a connection with the brothel that even high-class bureaucrats won’t touch.
What was this supposed to mean?
When he scratched his head again from the incomprehensibility of it, the girl suddenly sighed and stood up.
“What are you doing?”
“It doesn’t look like you believe me. We’re wasting time.” She smoothly took out something from her bosom. Two kanzashi. They were made of red crystal, and silver. “I sincerely apologise for wasting your time. I have others.”
“W-wai—” He grabbed the wooden slips as to try take them away.
Maomao, expressionless, looked at Rihaku. “What is it?”
He thought he lost.
“Isn’t that great? Gyokuyou-sama.” Honnyan was looking at Maomao from the gap of the door. Her demeanour was better than usual. She was packing cheerfully.
It was strange as the person herself wasn’t usually like this.
“Well, it’s only three days,” Consort Gyokuyou said.
“I guess so.” The head maid held up the imperial princess who was using her as standing support.
“She absolutely doesn’t understand.”
The other maids were telling “Congratulations” to Maomao, but the person herself didn’t seem to understand. She replied with a carefree, “I’ll go buy souvenirs”.
Consort Gyokuyou was standing by the window, gazing out.
“Good grief. That child is the pitiable one,” she sighed deeply, but a mischievous smile arose.
It was the day after Maomao’s departure when Jinshi, who finally became a leisurely person after finishing his work, visited the Jade Palace.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.