After his bath, Jinshi was slowly drinking from his wine cup.
When he had thought he heard the embers popping, the outside was already covered in snow. It should be getting cold.
As he put on the outer garment that was draped over the couch, he heard a clacking sound.
The sound came from the entrance, a design of this building. With that sound, you can pretty much determine who was coming in.
It was as he expected. His attendant, whose wrinkled brows cannot return to how it was before, came in.
“I sent her back with no problems,” Gaoshun said.
“Sorry as usual,” Jinshi said.
Gaoshun was entrusted to send Maomao back when it got late. It was what he occasionally did before, but he now thought that as that weirdo could find her, it cannot be overlooked. Because of that, as if he read Jinshi’s expression, Gaoshun kept silent and handled the job.
He was the man who had overseen his education since Jinshi was weaned. For a period of time, they had been separated when he had another job, but he was one person who understood Jinshi the most.
“It’s the inner palace tomorrow,” Jinshi said.
After escorting Maomao back, Gaoshun had headed to the medical office to pick up a certain thing that was compounded for him. It was a strange bitter liquid. Just looking at it makes me feel nauseous, he thought every time.
The medicine was portioned into two silver bowls, and Gaoshun took the first taste. Originally, it was thought it was a job that Maomao will take the initiative to try, but it was meaningless for her. Gaoshun downed it all, his brows furrowed deeply, and then waited a while. “There’s no problem. It’s the usual.”
“Gotcha.” Jinshi picked up the bowl. He pinched his nose and drank it down in a single gulp. He wiped the liquid that was left on the side of his mouth with the back of his hand and accepted the water Suiren bought to him.
He had already drunk this continuously for five years, but he still couldn’t get used to it.
“Pinching your nose. It would be better if you don’t do that in front of others,” Gaoshun remarked.
“I get it.”
“You look very young from just that action.”
“I get it.” Jinshi, as he sulked, sat on the couch.
His tone of voice, speech, walk, activity, all kinds. He had to pay attention to all those things.
The eunuch called Jinshi was a twenty-four-year-old man.
He straightened his posture, tried to adopt the eunuch Jinshi’s face.
But the bitterness of the drug lingered and his face ended up slackening. Gaoshun frowned again. “You don’t have to drink it if you don’t like it.”
“Isn’t it a distinction just in case*.”
Five years, has he been in the current emperor’s inner palace. Five years, has Jinshi continued to wear that warped mask.
Like so, he had continued to drink the medicine that takes away his masculinity.
Despite what the emperor had imparted him. Do whatever you like to low-ranked consorts and under.
“You’ll eventually truly become impotent.”
At Gaoshun’s words, Jinshi spat out the cider he was drinking to remove the bad taste in his mouth. He held his mouth, looked at Gaoshun resentfully.
Occasionally, I’ll have to tell you this much, Gaoshun looked as if to say that.
“Not like you’re any different,” Jinshi said.
“No, my grandchild was born last month.” Gaoshun replied.
Gaoshun’s children were already adults. It appeared that he wanted to say that he didn’t need to make any now.
“How old?” Jinshi asked.
If he remembered correctly, he heard that Gaoshun married at sixteen and that three kids consecutively from the following year.
“No, I’m talking about your son. He was there that time,” Jinshi said.
It was the time of the seaweed food poisoning incident the other day. The young man who accompanied Maomao that time to the official’s house, that should be Gaoshun’s youngest child.
“He should be, eighteen. The same age as milord.” Gaoshun not using the name ‘Jinshi’, that was a point. ‘Jinshi’ is twenty-four years old, a man who became a eunuch five years ago.
“That guy’s kid?”
“No, my eldest daughter’s. He should be getting around to marriageable age soon though,” Gaoshun said.
Gaoshun’s children were all doing well. The married daughter had also been working as a maid at the imperial court about one year ago.
He was looking like he somehow wanted to say something to Jinshi.
Jinshi, with an innocent look, recrossed his legs. “Please let me hold your grandchild soon.”
“I’ll try.” Gaoshun drank the warm tea that Suiren presented to him.
Jinshi ignored the reproachful attendant’s fleeting look, and gulped down the cider.
Jinshi’s regular visits to the four madames’ places ended smoothly today as well.
The newly entered Consort Rouran seemed to be living in the inner palace with no signs in particular of being unaccustomed.
As she was a consort who entered through brute force in a sense, he had been worried that some riot might occur, but both Consort Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa didn’t have the character to rush right into things. The two had previous difficulties, but that was a special case. Since then, they had built a relationship where they don’t strike or touch each other.
As for Consort Riishu, she wasn’t the type to start fights. He didn’t know if the maids will pester the consort though, so that was something to be cautious about.
However, when he entered the new consort’s palace, once the palace Consort Ah Duo had lived in, he felt lonely all over again.
The palace that was once plainly organised, minimalist, had changed to be an extravagant place surrounded by gorgeous fixtures.
Consort Rouran’s father was the person the previous emperor, no, more correctly, the person the previous empress dowager had been pleased with. He was the official who once increased the number of palace ladies to as far as three thousand people.
The one who presently stands the highest in terms of favour and trust was Consort Gyokuyou, with Consort Rifa coming in next. It doesn’t mean that when one gets to the position of the emperor, he can go to his favourite consort’s place.
If there’s the capability to preserve the power balance of the imperial court in the inner palace, there is also the capability to destroy it.
He cannot treat Consort Rouran imprudently. It seems he made sure to see her once every ten days.
If it becomes the case, the ones trembling with trepidation would be the other consorts. Although he goes to their places more, it was about whether a child could be made when it can, and when it can’t be made when it can’t.
Nevertheless, there was something called compatibility. He heard that the emperor doesn’t move his forefinger to Consort Rouran not very much.
I can’t say I don’t know the reason, Jinshi thought when he looked at Consort Rouran.
At the enigmatic lesson due to Maomao, Consort Rouran was wearing a kanzashi with the feathers of a bird from the southern countries, and a strange outfit.
Maomao had looked at that outfit strangely, but she can’t say she didn’t understand.
Consort Rouran had once worn the outfit of the southern countries, and had once worn the robes of a foreign northern tribe. He once though she was wearing barbarian robes like a boy, but tied up at her hips was a dress from the west. Her hair and make-up changed every time too.
In a sense, she was a fashionista, in a sense, she has no composure. Her face was neat by nature, but her looks didn’t stand out. It was from that reaction that he heard as a rumour it became like this, but how would that turn out?
It said every time the emperor visited, the consorts are thrown into disorder of not knowing who it will be. And so, it said she really can’t get into it.
Even Jinshi felt the same way. However, among the palace ladies, there seems to be those who see Consort Rouran’s new trend, and tilt their heads in incomprehensibility.
The emperor’s policy was that he would not touch them until they were sixteen. In another year, Consort Riishu will be secure. The current emperor might be against it to the point of feeling nauseous because of his father, the previous emperor’s taste.
The empress dowager has a large scar on her abdomen. That was due to the time when she was still a young girl, when she gave birth to the current emperor with her small body. It was due to the surgical operation called a caesarean that was used that even abandoned the mother’s body to give birth to the child.
That was under the orders of the emperor’s grandmother who was the empress dowager of that time. That woman, at the same time, was called the Empress. She is called that even now. She wielded that much authority. No one could defy her.
And it was said that it was a last resort, because no matter how much the inner palace expanded and the number of palace ladies increased, no child had been born.
Of course, since the previous emperor only touched young girls whose periods haven’t come yet, there’s no way they could give birth. It seems that the Empress didn’t know that was the reason.
There was no other way to say that the reason the present empress dowager kept her life was by good fortune. By chance, there was a court physician who returned from studying abroad in the west; by chance, it said that that man became a eunuch. It felt like a scheme even though it was said it was by chance – it was so circulated. Because it was as the Empress says.
That man’s treatment was splendid. Although it left a scar, the womb was left intact that in ten-odd years the empress dowager gave birth to another child. The previous emperor’s children were the one before and the one after, just those two.
Just that, maybe due to the previous childbirth, that court physician came to constantly attend a consort at the same time as the empress dowager. The crown prince’s consort whose birthing had overlapped with the empress dowager’s was disregarded, and consequently, an unfortunate thing happened.
Jinshi cannot help thinking. What if the current emperor’s first child is alive right now?
He shook his head. He mustn’t have absurd delusions.
And so, he thought like so. You should just hurry up and make one. The next crown prince.
Jinshi and Gaoshun share the same sentiments.
After the usual consort training, the emperor’s footsteps have increased considerably, but though he had thought that the results of that would come way later, it might have come unexpectantly fast.
Honnyan, Consort Gyokuyou’s head maid, had spoken out about that in concern.
It seems the emperor had visited the Jade Palace yesterday as well. Consort Gyokuyou looked lethargic. Honnyan, in her concern, was being too helpful. Her pitch-black hair was in disarray. It seems that Gaoshun was sometimes sympathetic to the head maid who looks like she has a lot of troubles with something. Honnyan didn’t seem to be as annoyed at Gaoshun, but since the other person was the hen-pecked husband, Gaoshun, she’ll eventually have no choice but to give up.
Just at the right moment, Jinshi set forth a certain proposal.
Consort Gyokuyou, her eyes shining, immediately replied with a nod.
Honnyan made a face that said oh my, but it was a rather welcoming expression. She had a talk with the three maids who were listening in from outside the room.
He didn’t seem to have made the wrong choice.
“The inner palace, is it?” Maomao asked
“That’s right. Your favourite job,” Jinshi replied.
Maomao polished up the silver tableware until it shone like a mirror.
After she confirmed that there was not even a smudge, she put them back onto the shelves.
It was impolite to talk during work so she quickly put everything to order.
She wanted to keep that much distinction.
Jinshi was eating mandarin oranges. He could’ve just peeled the skin himself, but Suiren was peeling them one by one for him and neatly setting them on a plate for him.
He really is a young master.
It seems the middle-aged palace lady tends to spoil this eunuch. She dresses him in padded garments when it’s cold, cools down his tea when it’s hot.
How embarrassing for a grown adult.
“It appears that Consort Gyokuyou’s period has stopped,” he said.
(There is the possibility of her being pregnant huh.)
When she was pregnant with Imperial Princess Rinrii, the consort had two poisoning attempts.
She must be restless in heart.
“From when do I to go?” she asked.
“You can even go starting from today,” he said.
“How very convenient.”
The inside of the Inner Palace was forbidden to males. It must be to deter that person even whose name she didn’t want to hear from meeting her.
Jinshi might have anticipated that for her, or it might just be convenience.
Maomao was fine either way.
She had planned to move as composed as possible but,
“Oh my, did something good happen?”
Since Suiren had asked that of her, it appeared that she was standing on the balls of her feet.
It looks like she was going to work at the inner palace again for a little while.