The four maids who were there from the start are all very hard workers.
Although the Jade Palace isn’t that large, the four of them moved about constantly. Bedroom duty, otherwise known as housekeeping maids, also come in, but it has always been the four maids who cleaned up the inside of the entire palace.
By the way, it is outside the original scope of a maid’s job.
And so, the only job left for the newcomer Maomao was to eat.
She didn’t know if they were feeling guilt from forcing the worst job onto her, or that they didn’t want her to invade their territory – all the maids aside from Honnyan didn’t force Maomao to do anything. Rather, they forced her out of the room with a gentle “It’s fine,” when she comes in with the intention to help.
(I can’t sit still.)
She was forced into her small room, only called out twice for meals and afternoon tea, and to eat the nourishment dishes for the emperor who visits every couple of days. Once in a while, Honnyan would entrust something onto her, but they were all quick and easy jobs.
(What is this? Eat and sleep?)
In addition to food tasting, the meals had become more extravagant than before. The leftover sweet snacks from the tea party were given to Maomao as well.
She wasn’t working hard like an ant. That nutrition will become fat at this rate.
(It’s like I’m livestock.)
Maomao wasn’t suitable for the food taster role for one other reason.
She had always been skinny. It was hard to know if her contact with poison had anything to do with it.
Moreover, as the lethal dose depended on body weight, there was a higher chance of surviving just by being fat.
As far as Maomao was concerned, it didn’t mean that she didn’t know a poison that would make someone that skinny. She had confidence that she could survive beyond lethal doses of poison, though it didn’t seem to be the case for the ones around her.
The three maids pitied Maomao, who looked young with her short height and overly skinny frame, the poor disposable piece.
They fed her congee, piling on seconds even when she was already full. She was also served one more side dish than the others.
(The remind me of the big sisters at the brothel.)
Even though Maomao was such quiet and unsociable thing, lacking that innocent charm. Why was it that the courtesans dote on her? At every opportunity, they fed her, gave her sweets.
—By the way, what Maomao didn’t realise was that there was a reason for her being doted upon.
Maomao’s left arm was covered in scars.
Cuts, stabs, burns, scars from being stabbed with needles.
She was short, too skinny and had countless scars.
Her arms were often bandaged. Occasionally she went about pale-faced and fainting.
Everyone held back tears, thinking that the girl was quiet and unsociable from the maltreatment she had sustained up until now.
Everyone thought she was being abused. But the truth was different.
Maomao had inflicted everything on herself.
To study the effect of salves and drugs that stop inflammation. To gain resistance to poisons by gradually ingesting them. Sometimes she also got a venomous snake to bite her. There were times she got the dose wrong and fainted as a result.
Consequently, this was why the scars were all concentrated on her left arm, and not her dominant arm.
It wasn’t that she had a masochistic, self-harming hobby. She was just too much into satisfying her intellectual desire that she was quite different from normal girls.
The one who was extremely bothered by such a daughter was her dad.
He was getting unwarranted slander before he knew it. While living in the pleasure district, he taught his own daughter medical knowledge and writing to give her another path outside prostitution.
He understood some of her motivations, but he condemned most of it.
For such reasons, everyone thought she was a pitiful girl, who, after being abused by her parent, was sold to the inner palace and made to become a disposable food taster.
The person herself didn’t know anything at all—
(At this rate, I’ll become a pig.)
As Maomao thought of such things, a detestable visitor appeared before her.
The young man with an otherworldly beauty was lit with a constant heavenly smile.
The three maids prepared tea for the visitor while taking in his face.
From hearing a quarrel from the other side of the wall, it sounded like there was an argument on who will prepare it.
The amazed Honnyan prepared the tea herself and directed the three to return to their rooms.
The food taster Maomao sniffed the contents of the silver teacup and held it in her mouth.
She felt like running away from the gaze of Jinshi, who had been staring intently at her for some time now. She squinted, trying to not meet his eyes.
As a young maiden, just by being looked at by a good-looking man, even if he is a eunuch, didn’t feel bad. But it wasn’t like that for Maomao. She drew a line, even though she appreciated Jinshi’s celestial maiden like beauty, because aside from that interest, there were too much differences between them.
“This is something I received. Can you taste it for me?” Jinshi asked.
There were steamed buns inside the basket. Maomao picked one up and split it apart. It was stuffed with minced meat and vegetables.
When she sniffed it, it yielded a medicinal scent.
It was the same as the tonic she ate the day before yesterday. “There’s aphrodisiac in it.”
“You didn’t even need to eat it to know,” Jinshi said.
“It’s not harmful to your health. Please take it back. Savour it.”
“Nah, when I think about the one who gave it to me, I really don’t want to eat it.”
“Indeed. You might get a visitor this evening.”
Jinshi made a wordless expression at Maomao who stated that nonchalantly. His reaction was different to what she had expected. He tried to make her eat the steamed bun while knowing it was spiked with an aphrodisiac; he should be grateful that she wasn’t giving him the look she would give a pest.
By the way, she wondered what kind of person he received it from.
Consort Gyokuyou laughed, her voice bell-like, at the two’s banter. The sounds of Imperial Princess Rinrii’s sleeping followed her footsteps.
Maomao bowed once and was prepared to leave the guest room.
“What do you require of me?” she asked.
Jinshi and Consort Gyokuyou looked at each other and nodded. It appeared that they had settled on the main topic before Maomao came over.
“Can you make me a love potion?” Jinshi asked.
In an instant, Maomao’s eyes glowed with surprise and curiosity.
Though she had no idea what use they had for that medicine, there was no mistaking that she was all too happy to prepare it.
As Maomao controlled her smile, she said, “Time, ingredients and utensils. If I can have those.”
I can make a love potion if I have the things for it.