It can be said that the residences are painted in the styles of their owners.
There was the cosy Consort Gyokuyou’s Jade Palace. There was the refined nobility of Consort Rifa’s Crystal Palace.
And the Garnet Palace, where Consort Ah Duo resided in, was practical.
It was a simple structure, lacking in excessive decoration. In a way, it brought about another type of refinement.
Its owner, Consort Ah Duo, was exactly that type of person.
Her appearance was stripped bare of needless things. She wasn’t gorgeous, voluptuous, nor charming. However, this resulted in giving her an imposing androgynous beauty.
(And she is thirty-five years old?)
She could be mistaken for a young civil official if she wore official robes. Just how much envy does she get from the palace ladies in this inner palace that only has palace ladies and eunuchs? Jinshi’s charm seems fake in comparison to hers.
Maomao didn’t see what outfit the consort wore at the banquet, but a barbarian’s horse riding outfit would be more fitting than the long sleeves and shirt she was wearing today.
Maomao was guided into the palace with two other palace ladies.
The head maid, Fonmin, a mild-mannered plump beauty, promptly described the interior of the residence. It turns out the reason they were called was that they didn’t have enough hands for their end of year spring cleaning.
(Is she injured?)
She noted with a fleeting glance that Fonmin’s left arm was wrapped in bandages.
Maomao’s left arm was also bandaged in the same way. She got tired of the reserved stares she got every time people noticed her old scars.
The day ended with her only airing out the furniture and books. The manual labour had been left to the eunuchs.
As this residence had been lived in the longest in the inner palace, it had more things than the Jade Palace.
She didn’t return to the Jade Palace and slept huddled together with the remaining two maidservants in the Garnet Palace’s large room. It was cold, so the furs they were provided were very warm.
(They don’t tell people what to do.)
Maomao immersed herself in just cleaning up as the head maid had instructed her.
Seeing as how the plump head maid was praising her so happily, she couldn’t bring herself to slack off from the job.
A good wife would be the sort of woman who has fun from working. Fonmin was that kind of maid.
It had been so long since she worked so hard.
She fell into a deep sleep, curled up like a cat.
(Is there really a mastermind for the poisoning incident?)
The maids of the Jade Palace were hard workers, but she had to admit that the maids of the Garnet Palace were capable as well.
Everyone adored Consort Ah Duo, and that showed through the care they took to perform their jobs.
The head maid Fonmin, especially, was a wonder.
She was not constrained to the role of a maid. If she ever finds dust, she will use a dust cloth to clean it up.
At the very least, it was unthinkable for a head maid who serves a high ranking consort. Even the hardworking Honnyan will leave this to the other maids.
(I want to show this to the Crystal Palace maids who are only good at lip service.)
Consort Rifa just wasn’t lucky with her maids. It can be said that the reason why she was surrounded by lots of useless maids was that each of their workloads is little. And despite this, they were good-for-nothings as they were only good at talking.
Well, being one who can be single-handedly responsible for all these maids, you can say that she has the talent of the one who stands on top though.
However, their strong loyalty was also related to their reasons for the poisoning as well.
The reason the consort was taken down from her Four Madames seat was that a high official wants his own daughter to enter.
If the consort was made to step down, the high official’s daughter could become Consort Ah Duo, but what would happen if the other high-ranking consort seats become vacated?
Leaving Consort Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa aside, it was likely that the emperor doesn’t go to Consort Riishu’s place.
(He prefers them voluptuous, after all.)
Consort Riishu has yet to fulfil the consort’s role.
Still, the young Consort Riishu would hope for that. Be as it may that she has reached marriageable age, but supposing she gets pregnant at fourteen years of age, there will be a considerably large burden to her body when she gives birth. The discussions itself would also be severe. Well, with this point, thinking about how she met the previous emperor was inconsiderate so let’s stop it here.
It wouldn’t be strange to hear about Consort Riishu being the target of dropping.
Maomao’s mind churned as she tidied the kitchen shelves.
She saw that there were many small jars were lined up on the shelf. A sweet scent reached her nose.
“What do I do with this?” Maomao asked.
“Ahh, those. Please return them to their original spots after you wipe the shelf.”
She asked the maid who was cleaning with her in the kitchen. The maidservants who came together with her to assist yesterday were each cleaning in the bathroom and living room respectively.
“All of this is honey?”
“That’s right. Fonmin-sama’s family are beekeepers,” the maid replied.
“It’s no wonder then.”
Honey is a luxury item. It’s a good thing if you have one type, arranging a great number of them is like that huh. When she checked the contents, the colours were different, ranging from amber, reddish-brown to brown. When the variety of flowers it is harvested from is different, the taste is also different.
Speaking of honey, there was something about it.
Something she had heard about recently.
“Once you’re done, can you go wipe the handrails on the second floor for me? The cleaning child usually forgets about it completely,” the maid said.
“I understand.” Maomao put away the honey and went up to the second floor with the dust cloth in hand.
As she carefully wiped down the handrail pillars one by one, she organised her thoughts.
She reviewed everything that happened recently.
The outside could be seen clearly from the second floor. She saw a person, who was intending to hide, visiting the Garnet Palace.
Only the food taster girl was with her. Why was she in such a place?
Maomao didn’t understand at all.
The memories from the tea party from a few days ago resurfaced.
Why does Consort Riishu not like honey?
She just got strangely curious about that.
Borrowing the parlour of the Jade Palace, Maomao carried out her report on the Garnet Palace to Jinshi.
“And so, about everything I had said up to now, I did not understand at all,” she told him.
The things she didn’t understand, she didn’t understand.
Maomao wasn’t underestimating herself, but she wasn’t overestimating herself either.
She honestly conveyed that to the beautiful eunuch.
The results of her entering the Garnet Palace for three days.
Jinshi was elegantly sprawled on the couch, enjoying foreign tea that had a sweet aroma. He squeezed in lemon and mixed in honey.
“Is that so, so that’s how it is,” he said.
“Indeed. It is like that,” she said.
Recently she felt the beautiful eunuch’s tone was strangely casual, though it’s good that he wasn’t as sparkly as before. The sweetness in his voice had vanished. Maybe it was because she could sense he was like a teenager.
Maomao didn’t know what he was requesting of her, but she was very much a normal pharmacist. He can’t expect her to play spy.
“Well then, let me return you a question. Hypothetically, if there is a certain person who can contact the outside with a special method, who would it be?” he asked.
(Again with that unpleasant way of asking questions.)
Maomao didn’t like to speak out about her groundless thoughts.
She was taught to never speak from speculation.
Maomao, with her eyes closed, took a deep breath. She must calm down, or she might end up looking at the celestial maiden-like young man like she would look at a dead frog.
Gaoshun, as usual, was desperately appealing about something to her with his eyes.
“I’m talking about the possibility, but if there is, it could only be the head maid Fonmin,” she said.
“Your basis being?” he asked.
“Her left arm is bandaged. I saw her replacing her bandage once. I saw burn scars.”
It was the incident with the wooden slips dipped in drug solutions from before. She had recognised it to be a cipher, but she didn’t speak out.
She thought of the possibility of burn injury on the arm from the robe with the burnt sleeve that had wrapped the wooden slips. Needless to say, Jinshi had investigated that. And then made Maomao play spy.
Though, honestly, she couldn’t see that gentle maid doing something, but that was only Maomao’s personal opinion. If she didn’t look at it objectively, she couldn’t reach the right answer.
“Well, you get a passing mark.” Jinshi suddenly looked at the small bottle left on the table. Then he looked at Maomao, his smile saccharine.
She could sense something squirming just beneath that smile.
All of Maomao’s hairs stood up in an instant.
She had a horribly unpleasant premonition.
He picked up the small bottle and came towards Maomao. “You need to reward good children, right.”
“I decline,” she said.
“It’s okay to not decline.”
“I’m good, so please give it to someone else.” She constantly shot death glares towards him telling him to cut it out, but he made no sign of stopping. He slowly shortened the distance. Because she kept retreating inch by inch, her back soon hit the wall.
She sought help from Gaoshun, but the taciturn attendant was sitting by the window, gazing at the birds flying in the sky. As he was unusually settled, it was rather annoying.
(I’ll serve him a laxative later.)
Jinshi, with a smile that would enchant anyone, slipped his fingers inside the small bottle. His finger came away with a generous amount of honey.
Harassment is serious.
“Do you like sweet things?” he asked.
“I prefer savoury.”
“But, you do eat it, right?” No intention of stopping, his finger neared Maomao’s mouth. He looked at Maomao’s glaring eyes with a look of fascination.
(Come to think of it, he’s that kind of human(pervert).)
Should she take this as an order from him, and obediently open her mouth? Or should she escape by any means to preserve her pride?
(If this is wolfsbane honey at least, I’ll understand.)
The honey of poisonous flowers is poison. It mixes with the honey, causing food poisoning.
At that, something connected in Maomao’s head.
She wanted to set her thoughts in order, but with that pervert’s finger persistently closing in on her, she couldn’t think of anything.
Just when his finger was in her mouth.
“What are you doing to my maid(child)?”
A displeased Consort Gyokuyou stood there.
Honnyan stood behind her, at her wit’s end.