“What could be happening?”
Gaoshun, who was asking, was curtly shot down by Jinshi’s stark reply.
They were in the front of the auditorium within the Inner Palace.
The high ranked consorts were currently studying about the duty they must accomplish as consorts.
Around them, the eunuchs and attendant palace ladies who had been shut out were making the same expressions as Jinshi.
Some even planted their ears on the door, curious about the secretiveness of it all.
What in the world could this be about?
The sole reason for their curiosity was this: why was the lecturer a young palace lady with freckles?
This began ten days ago.
When Maomao returned to her post, her short break over, she found a grave-faced Jinshi. For some reason, he was looking at Maomao with a serious expression. “The new Pure Consort has arrived. It looks like they want to train the consorts.”
“Is that so?” With a half-hearted reply, Maomao started to scrub the floor. She cleaned like she was stealing a maidservant’s job, like it was her parent’s enemy. This was her daily routine since becoming Jinshi’s room maid.
Maomao was aware that other jobs were available to her, but since she had only done maidservant jobs, she honestly had no clue on what she should do. Cleaning was fine for the time being so she did it with gusto. Jinshi would occasionally look displeased about it, but Maomao thought it wasn’t necessary as far as he didn’t order her to do something
Jinshi’s room originally had the barest minimum of servants. Even if there wasn’t Maomao, Suiren, who was Jinshi’s old housekeeper, would be sufficient.
She felt bad for stealing the hardworking old housekeeper’s job, so aside from the jobs that were strenuous for the legs and back, Maomao thought she ought to act knowing her own territory.
Jinshi crouched down to meet Maomao’s eyes. In his hand was some scroll. “It’s about becoming a lecturer.”
“Heeh, for who?” Maomao said.
“You,” he said.
Maomao looked at Jinshi, her eyes glazing over unintentionally. Even if she was now a palace lady under his beck and call, it was difficult to stop looking at him like rubbish she lost interest in. Seeing that, Jinshi made a wordless expression. “Don’t joke.”
“You think I’m joking with you?” Jinshi dangled the document before her eyes.
Maomao squinted at it. Something quite inconvenient to her was written on it.
“Oi, don’t look away,” Jinshi said.
“I wonder what it is about,” she said.
“You were studying it just then.”
“I think your mind is playing tricks on you.”
Jinshi unrolled the document and pointed to the section that was inconvenient to Maomao. He stabbed at it with his finger repeatedly. How annoying. “Right here. That’s the name of the person who recommended you.”
Jinshi was pointing to “Able Consort Rifa” that was written there.
Ah crap, Maomao thought.
“I don’t know.” Maomao said.
At first, she repeatedly feigned complete ignorance, but after receiving Consort Gyokuyou’s signature right after Consort Rifa’s, there was obviously no way of her ignoring that. She could imagine the red-haired consort preparing it with a gleeful smile. The sum of the reward was also courteously specified.
Maomao sighed, resigned. She sent a letter to her family and made preparations regardless. Her family in this case wasn’t the pharmacist side, but the brothel that took care of her like family.
A couple of days later, the package was delivered with the cost that the hag demanded from her. Quite overcharged, Maomao thought, but she added an extra line and handed it over to Jinshi. He had looked at it with begrudging acceptance although he was sceptical, but then his housekeeper appeared at the side, looked at the indicated sum with a smile, took it from Jinshi and handed it back to Maomao.
Suiren almost handled looking after Jinshi’s daily necessities alone. Someone like her would know about that much.
It might be difficult for the naïve young master.
She reluctantly showed him the original cost and he agreed with some hesitation. He had haggled as she would expect, but as this would result in Maomao paying with her own money, she wanted him to stop.
When the package was brought over, Maomao pushed Gaoshun aside and seized it. Jinshi looked at it restlessly, his demeanour somewhat like a dog, but Maomao never unwrapped the seal and carried it out with the cart.
She politely refused Gaoshun who came asking, “Shall I assist you?”, and took it back to her room.
Jinshi had commanded her to show him, but when she fixed him with a wide glowering stare, he retreated without a word.
No way was she going to show him the important teaching materials.
And so, on the very day.
The prepared auditorium was quite spacious – it can probably fit three hundred people. During the time of the previous emperor, it had been used for maidservants without rooms to sleep in when the number of palace ladies suddenly increased. It is hardly ever used nowadays. It was a waste, but demolishing it even more so.
(It doesn’t need to be this spacious.)
She wasn’t teaching something that was big deal, but why was a bustling crowd gathered here? Lots of onlooking maidservants surrounded them in the distance. Middle-ranked to high-ranked consorts and their followers make up most of the ones gathered around the auditorium.
Looks like that today’s lesson was important to the consorts.
“I’m telling you people, but only high ranked consorts will be taking this class,” Jinshi said.
The consorts and palace ladies, hearing Jinshi’s words, looked like they were dejected, no, more enraptured.
It seemed that around half of them were here just to see Jinshi; some were satisfied with hearing just his voice, and weakly leaned against the pillars for support. It looked extremely forced, the drama that was taking place, but it wasn’t just one or two people doing that, so she made the distinction that it was like that.
Maomao sometimes thought this eunuch gave off a strange energy, like he was an ayakashi or something.
She was going to enter the auditorium since it was time, but Jinshi was following right behind her.
Maomao inadvertently parted her lips and narrowed her eyes at him.
“What?” As he said so, Jinshi’s back was being pushed by Maomao and redirected out of the auditorium. “Why?”
“Everything from here on is a secret that no one can know. I’ll make an exception for the consorts, but Jinshi-sama will not hear,” she said, shutting the door and obstructed it with a pole.
With a heavy sigh, she surveyed the inside of the auditorium. There were nine people in the room including Maomao. They were the four high ranked consorts and one of their attendants.
The other side of the door was somehow rowdy with chatter. Must be because she drove Jinshi out. For some reason, she felt that someone was straining their ears listening against the door.
Maomao pushed the cart to stand in the middle of the auditorium, and slowly bowed her head. “My name is Maomao, and I will be your lecturer today.”
Consort Gyokuyou, who was beautiful as usual, waved her small hands from her sleeves. Honnyan, her attendant maid, scrutinized Maomao with narrowed eyes.
Consort Rifa regained her plump body that was not much different from before. She looked at Maomao with a calm expression. Her attendant maid was amusing, blanching the moment she saw Maomao.
Consort Riishu was cowering as usual. She might be fussing about the fact that there were three other high ranked consorts with her. Though her attendant maid was also cowering similarly, it was strangely charming to see that she was trying to protect her consort.
And the final consort.
A new face for Maomao.
Coming in after the previous high ranked Consort Ah Duo was a girl who was the same age as Maomao. The new Pure Consort was called Rouran(楼蘭, Lou Lan). Her pitch-black hair was arranged up with a kanzashi decorated with a feather of a bird from the southern countries. Even her attire made people think of a princess from the southern countries, but her features hailed from the central region. Maomao thought her attendant maid also had the same simple tastes in clothes.
As expected as one who became a consort, she had a befittingly beautiful face. Though she wasn’t as bewitching as consort Gyokuyou, nor she was as gorgeous as Consort Rifa.
Different to Consort Riishu, it was a given that she became the emperor’s chosen based on her age, but Maomao didn’t see a capable person who will break the balance of the inner palace as of now.
(Doesn’t concern me.)
Maomao ended her self-introduction simply. She then took out a textbook from her baggage and distributed them to the consorts one by one.
When the consorts accepted them, they each reacted with widened eyes, gleeful smiles, blushed, and wrinkled their brows respectively.
(Hm, I guess so.)
Maomao then took out a tool. Half of them tilted their heads, wondering what it was, and the other half who knew its use, somehow registering what it was, and blushed.
“Everything I tell you from here on is a secret art of women. Please keep it a secret.” Maomao, saying that, asked them to turn to the third page of the text book.
One dual-hour(two hours) later, when Maomao ended the lesson.
(I might have crammed a little too much.)
Even Maomao, who had taught them, was slightly weary. She trudged over to remove the blocking pole from the auditorium door.
“…that was long.” The beautiful eunuch walked in with a composed air. He looked slightly bad-tempered, and for some reason, his left ear and cheeks were bright red. Maomao not saying, Jerk, you were listening in, weren’t you, was kindness.
Jinshi, as soon as he entered the auditorium, made a dumbfounded face.
“What is it?” she said.
“I should be asking you instead,” Jinshi looked at Maomao with moist eyes.
“Even if you ask that.” Maomao, as she had said, only taught the necessary knowledge for consorts in the inner palace. The consorts she taught, their reactions were as followed.
Consort Gyokuyou was saying, “A break from routine,” in high spirits with a cheery expression. The head maid Honnyan accompanied her with the usual tired expression. Maomao paid no mind to it, but it felt like she was being glared at sometimes.
Consort Rifa was slightly blushing. Her fingers moved as though she was ruminating on the lesson. She looked satisfied for some reason. Maomao thought her attendant maid was quite a young lady when she saw her trembling pale-faced with her eyes cast down.
Consort Riishu was thumping her head on the wall in the corner of the auditorium, muttering “Impossible, absolutely impossible,” with an ashen face.
By her side, the palace lady who had recently become her head maid was stroking her back in concern. That was mostly likely the former food taster girl.
Consort Rouran was staring blankly into space. Maomao had no idea what was in her head.
Maomao finished packing up her things and downed the water she accepted in a single gulp. She was tired, but she was looking forward to the gift of money she will be getting after this.
Every consort was each holding onto the example she had brought in as a teaching aid. A certain thing, they carried it in their arms with great importance. A certain thing, they touched with dread. Whatever that thing was, they cannot ask while it was carefully wrapped up in a wrapping cloth – as she requested them to do it that way.
At that, Jinshi and everyone else who weren’t in the auditorium looked on bewildered.
“Hey, what did you teach?” Jinshi asked.
Maomao made a distant look. “Please ask the emperor for his impressions later,” she replied.
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.