(There really isn’t much in winter.)
Maomao was sitting cross-legged in her room, groaning with her arms crossed. The plants she gathered in the morning during her work intervals were a paltry amount, still not enough for her to compound. There was nothing she could do about it, so she washed them, and hung them off to dry on the walls of her room.
Since she did this sort of thing every day since coming to the Imperial Court, Maomao’s room has turned into quite a questionable place. She thought it was an exceptional room for one provided for live-in maidservants, but cramped was still cramped. It was around the same size as the room that was provided to her in the Inner Palace. Even so, the current room was cumbersome – as, at the Jade Palace, she could use the kitchen if she got permission and she could compound at once since ingredients were abundant there.
(Well then, what should I do?)
Maomao was used to it, but it seemed like this room reeked quite a bit. It was like the saying ‘Good medicine tastes bitter’, there were a lot of medicinal herbs with strong bitterness and stench. Although the rooms beside Maomao’s were currently unoccupied, seeing how the maidservants blatantly quicken their steps when they pass by, it seemed to be the case. They’ll eventually complain about it, Maomao understood with her experience she had so far.
(I wonder if there’s a somewhat good place that’s unoccupied.)
Like this, she can’t compound comfortably. The beautiful fungus she specially received would spoil.
Maomao gazed at the paulownia box she placed with great importance on top of her luggage. Sealed with a silk cord, it was a herb that grew from a bug as a source.
Maomao, seeing that, felt herself inadvertently break into a wide smile. Her face ended up cramping from the eerie grinning.
(Not good not good.)
The other day, she ended up raising her voice like this, and her door was kicked in protest by the people who lived two rooms down. Don’t make a strange sound in the middle of the night, I can’t sleep, that sort of thing.
Maomao eased her slackened cheeks with her fingers and went to lie down on the bed. A maidservant’s job was early in the morning. She had to wake before the rooster crowed. The person she served was the beautiful noble one, although he lost his important thing. She must not hurt his good mood.
Maomao heaped several layers of clothes as a thin cover on top of her, and closed her eyes.
“Is your current room cramped?” the beautiful eunuch said as he ate his morning porridge.
Maomao blinked once at Jinshi’s words.
“The room you provided me is good enough for a maidservant’s hospitality.” What she really meant but didn’t say was “Indeed, it’s cramped. If it’s possible, I want to move into a room adjacent to a well that has a kitchen range.” Even Maomao knew that much.
“Really?” he asked.
The eunuch, who still wasn’t fully awake, was enjoying his breakfast, clothes slightly dishevelled. His messy hair that was bundled up simply was unnecessarily seductive.
Maomao knew very well why there was only, aside from herself, Gaoshun, and another person, a middle-aged palace lady, in this eunuch’s room. If it were women, they would rush in, affected by his seductiveness and get infatuated. If it were men, they would ignore and push down the gender barrier. He really has a sinful nature.
(He’s kinda like a bug during mating season.)
There are female bugs that release a mysterious scent to attract males. Ten to hundreds of males are lured and gather in response to a single female. Maomao has also caught some using that peculiarity to gather bugs that can be medicinal ingredients.
If she thought of it that way, he might have a very interesting nature.
(If I can collect that scent and make it into a perfume, I might be able to sell that.)
In that manner, she ended up looking at the raw materials for a love potion, uh, Jinshi. It was a bad habit that her consciousness will jump to the other side when she thought of other things. Because of that, there were many times where she often lost track of the conversation around her. Even though she wasn’t listening; it was like only her head was listening, nodding along, which was all the more puzzling.
“I can prepare a new room if you would like,” Jinshi said.
Jinshi, who looked somehow satisfied, asked the middle-aged palace lady, Suiren(水蓮, Shui Lian), for seconds of the porridge. Suiren, with a calm expression, dished out a new bowl of porridge, added vinegar, and passed it over.
I don’t know what’s happening, but he’s preparing a better room for me? Maomao accepted, and met eyes with Gaoshun who was clutching his head. The world-wise person, who constantly looked tired, looked like he wanted to say something to Maomao, but she only wrinkled her brows.
(I won’t understand what you want to say unless you tell me clearly.)
Maomao thought that, but said nothing, seeing as she had a lot of times where she didn’t say enough too.
“It’s a godsend that you came here. Frankly, my knees are hurting in winter. My age is wearing on me.” Suiren was smiling cheerfully as she spoke to Maomao.
Certainly, it is excessive overwork for one palace lady to work in Jinshi’s large building. Moreover, it’ll wear out various parts of the body for someone who’s past her fifties. For human lifespan, if there are people who live for a hundred years, there are those who die as soon as they are born. The typical thinking is that living fifty years is good enough.
“There were many times a new child has come in. Well, they can’t continue for various reasons though. For that, it should be fine if it’s Shaomao,” she added.
Since Gaoshun called Maomao that, this good-natured palace lady called her that too.
Though her mouth moved a lot, the skilled palace lady was also quick at her job, her hands never stopped moving. The silver tableware was completely polished in a blink of an eye. And when she was done, she moved onto cleaning the floor. No matter how she looked, as it was a maidservant’s job, Maomao entered to stop her,
“Probably, with this, we won’t make it in time for the work that starts from midday.”
And was told that. As the maidservants and palace ladies that were employed before messed up that, Suiren did all of the cleaning in the room.
Even Maomao can easily imagine that it was probably a money theft.
However, Suiren said, it wasn’t just losing things, sometimes they gained things.
“As you would expect, anyone would find it unpleasant if you find underwear you have never seen before among your belongings,” Suiren said.
Furthermore, it looked like it was sewn on with human hair instead of thread.
At the response that was completely outside her expectation, Maomao broke out in goosebumps. “That’s dreadful.”
“Yes, it’s dreadful,” Suiren agreed.
Maomao thought, it’ll be so much better if he lived with even his face covered, as she diligently wiped the window frames.
After she finished cleaning Jinshi’s private room and was done with her late meal, she went to clean his office next. Honestly, it happened that cleaning the office was easy as it was really a simple structure. But since there was no way of her cleaning the floor in front of Mr Big-shot, having to take care around that was difficult. And so, it was common for her to choose to clean when Jinshi went to the Inner Palace or another official’s place. Other times, she went about doing odd-jobs to kill time.
(I wonder what should I do today.)
It happened that Maomao had free time since Jinshi had a visitor in his office. During these times, there are many times she pretended she had work and went out to take a stroll in the Imperial Court.
(I pretty much covered the west side huh)
A map spread out in Maomao’s mind. If she could, she wanted to go around the east side, but she ended up somehow hesitant. The military was on the east side. What would happen if a maidservant was sneakily weeding in the area with lots of military officers? Wouldn’t I get mistaken as a spy and get detained? she thought.
(Besides, if we’re talking about the military….)
Inadvertently, Maomao gave an expression, all her face muscles cramping. That was the only reluctant reason, but on the other hand, she anticipated that there might be rare medicinal herbs in the places she hasn’t strolled through.
As she crossed her arms and groaned, she felt something hit the back of her head.
Holding the back of her head, she turned around with a dubious expression. There was a tall court lady with a cool expression. It was a foreign-looking court lady with noble features.
(I think I’ve seen her before.)
Maomao recalled the faces of the court ladies that was involved with her a couple of days ago. She was among that group.
She only had the barest minimum of make-up done, but her precisely drawn eyebrows were peculiar. Even though she had full, rich lips, the rouge was thinly drawn like a line.
(It’s a waste but the make-up is eager.)
Her frame and raw materials were first-class articles, but with the make-up, she became overly refined. If her brows were thinned and softened, her lips drawn fully with pale red, her hair tied up flamboyantly, she could be counted as one of the rare beauties among the flowers of the Inner Palace. Maomao, who gazed for a long time at the figures that become night butterflies(The courtesans.), her aesthetic sense saw through the sloppy girl for this reason. Most of the people in the Imperial Court probably think that girl was a rough diamond that can become that kind of beauty.
For this reason, there was a reason to her grouping in a clique with the court ladies and appearing before Maomao. Are the beautiful court ladies quickly falling in love at first sight with capable military officers or civil officials and marrying? Or they are picking on their own court ladies? Which one was it? Rarely, there were women who live skilfully, but that was more a woman with a high prostitute disposition rather than a court lady.
(This woman is quite a fox(狐, tricksters that transform into lovely women in east asian mythology), isn’t she?)
The court lady walked past, as if to say that she won’t waste any word to the maidservant. Was she declaring, “Don’t dawdle in such a place”?” There was the faint scent of sandalwood when she happened to pass by.
Maomao, with a sudden realisation, looked at the court lady’s back. And then she looked at the direction whence she came from.
(A military officer’s mistress?)
The court lady came from the direction of the military gate. Certainly, if she was going to visit the military, simple make-up would be prudent. Even if it was to not go into the back alleys of the pleasure district, it would be better to avoid the places where peerless beauties walkabout around vigorous military officers.
(Let’s stop for today.)
Maomao made a right-about-face and decided to return to Jinshi’s office. Maomao, with her interest waned, though it was better if the owner of the office went out soon.
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.