Volume 3: Imperial Court 2
With the door sliding open, the person who entered the room gave a big sigh.
“Welcome back.” Gaoshun slowly inclined his head. He regarded the young man who seemed to be wearing a costume. Slumped shoulders, a downtrodden face, and bangs that had grown to cover his expression.
Gaoshun closed the door. There were people outside who had followed as adjutant on behalf of Gaoshun.
The same time the door closed with a click, the young man with the wretched appearance smoothly set back his shoulders. He brushed his hair aside, revealing a beautiful face.
He had applied some makeup to alter his face, but it was still surprising that he was able to change that much.
A beautiful young man, Jinshi was there.
No, this wasn’t the man called Jinshi.
He looks like a completely different person, Gaoshun reminded himself.
They were not in the building they usually used – it was several times more superior. The people who could enter were extremely restricted.
Even Gaoshun made sure he entered via the rear entrance. His robes weren’t the official robes he usually wore – it was something a little more refined.
“Shall I prepare for your bath?” Gaoshun asked.
“Yeah, I’ll leave it to you,” his master replied.
Gaoshun asked his master who wasn’t in his usual robes.
Up until some time ago, his master was with the emperor and several high officials.
His master loosened the collar of the robes he wasn’t accustomed to wearing and reclined onto the couch. Suiren, a middle-aged palace lady, presented some chilled fruit juice to her listless master.
He got the manservant to prepare the bath. The man had been serving him since a long time ago, someone like Suiren who had known the master ever since he was young. With this man included, the number of people here could be counted on one hand.
Even though he had him fill-up the hot water, it should take a little while.
“As expected, it was an issue I cannot avoid.”
His master wasn’t asking Gaoshun. Gaoshun didn’t offer a reply, knowing that he could only be speaking to himself.
It was on the evil practices. Of the inner palace that has become overly enormous.
The inner palace of the previous emperor had exceeded five thousand palace ladies.
The current one had not even half of that.
Since the numbers continued to drop year after year.
Despite that, half of what there is now would be much more reasonable. Even less would be fine. Even the emperor agreed.
There was a certain girl who was said to have met with palace lady hunters, but that was all bad timing.
The palace lady replacement was implemented during the same period as Consort Riishu’s marriage.
It was good that the current era is peaceful.
No locust damage nor large famine for these last couple of decades. Once in a while, foreign tribes would make passes at them, but those were nothing like a rebellion.
Maintaining the garden of women was capable of clearing out the national treasury at times.
However, this could also be due to the employment counter-measure.
It was ironic that needy peasants would choose to work in the flower garden.
It was under the pretext of such employment that the prime minister chanted to not scale down the numbers in the inner palace anymore.
The middle-aged man, who was well-regarded by the previous empress dowager, was the one behind the pointlessly expanded inner palace in the first place.
It was he who suggested increasing the number of consorts who could give birth if the previous emperor could not produce children, and thus proceeded with the yearly increase of palace ladies.
Though the cause of the previous emperor being unable to beget offspring was due to something entirely different – not wanting to reveal that was repulsive.
Meaning, the previous emperor was no more than one who was only inclined towards young girls.
Had it not been the case, would he do something like generously bestow the girl said to be the country’s most beautiful maiden?
Besides that, it wasn’t rare for him to liberally bestow consorts to his retainers.
As such, when the current emperor’s younger brother was born, it went as far as that no one doubted the empress dowager’s infidelity.
That there was no way the emperor would crook his finger to the empress he raised.
The prime minister, who grew plump from drinking the nectar of the previous era, probably also believed the current era to be his too.
To use considerably overbearing methods to get his daughter to marry.
To the point of driving out Consort Ah Duo.
There are still ways to deal with him if he just grew plump, but it was difficult to be an opponent who has already reached the point of a tanuki spirit.(化け狸, Bakedanuki, Japanese Raccoon-dog spirit, a shapeshifting trickster-type spirit, similar to a fox. While foxes shapeshift to tempt, tanuki do it to fool people. They are all depicted with bulging bellies.).
“I ought to do something about it, huh,” his master muttered. Gaoshun waited, keeping silent.
Even if he didn’t want to, he ought to do something. That was his master’s job.
When he saw the change of clothes that Suiren brought over, his master headed towards the bathroom.
The emperor was also doing the unreasonable.
To force unreasonable demands to a nineteen-year-old youth.
That he had to accomplish it.
He had no other choice than to accompany his master if that was the road his master chose to take.
That was what Gaoshun thought, once again.
When Gaoshun deigned to go to the Jade Palace, the short, unsociable palace lady was absent.
“Where did she go?” he asked Honnyan, the head maid. With an indescribable expression, she pointed to a building a fair distance away.
He saw smoke, as if there was a fire in use.
What could it be? Just as Gaoshun was going to head to that place.
Today he came to relay directives; Jinshi wasn’t around. Even though he came for just that, the maid who was firmly gripping the grass sickle looked his way.
Maybe I’ll do it later, Gaoshun had to use needless tact. Once, there seemed to be a time when she entrusted the grass cutting to a eunuch, she got him to work on the design of the window. If he considered that she had faith that Gaoshun won’t do that if it was him, he should feel glad.
After promising that he would do it later, Gaoshun headed towards the place where he could see smoke.
In the kitchen of the building where the smoke was coming from, there was a short palace lady watching the pot.
The inside of the room was stuffy with heat and the scent of flowers.
“What are you up to?” Gaoshun asked.
“Gaoshun-sama.” The forehead of the expressionless Maomao was covered in a light sheen of sweat.
There was a strange pipe that extended from the pot on the stove. Liquid dripped from the end.
It appears the source of the smell was from there.
“I’m making rose water,” she said.
I see now, so the fragrance was because of that.
That saying, the rose pots had been planted in the inner palace after the garden party.
She must be using their petals.
At any rate, the girl was doing something bizarre.
Moreover, it was poor of her that she didn’t realise that.
She sniffed the liquid that was steadily dripping from the pipe, and scowled, I guess it’s good enough. It appears that she wasn’t satisfied with just this degree of fragrance.
She also prepared dye used to differentiate the scents she had already made a lot of.
“You properly got Consort Gyokuyou’s permission, didn’t you?” he asked.
“It was harder to get Honnyan-sama’s permission. I also must tidy up completely. She said I have to completely get rid of the smell from my body.”
A small amount of the oil of concentrated plants shouldn’t be a problem, but it seems that if you use too much, it would be bad for pregnant women.
That’s why she said she went out of her way to borrow a different place and do it there.
I see, more than the consort who likes interesting things, it was the head maid who was enthusiastic about work who was stricter.
And yet, that she was able to get her permission in itself; is she aware how lenient of her she is, this girl?
Her type was one who loses sight of her surroundings once she is concentrated on something.
Even though she conducts herself calmly for other things.
Maomao poured the rose water into a small bottle and handed it to Gaoshun.
The concentrated fragrance spread through his sinus.
“Wild roses have stronger scents though.” Maomao made a somewhat displeased expression.
It really was a researcher’s trait to pursue perfection.
There was a large pot set on another stove.
There was a ceramic pipe that extended out of it in a similar way, dripping clear liquid.
It was different from the rose fragrance. This smell made his head spin.
“That one is to collect alcohol.”
I see, it makes you feel drunk just by sniffing it.
Nevertheless, he cannot help noticing that everything she does goes over the domain of a pharmacist.
It is possible to say – though he would certainly incur her displeasure – that she really has a lot of parts that resembled the Tactician. The blood of an eccentric is an eccentric
Maomao collected the accumulated liquid into a bowl and efficiently tidied up.
When Gaoshun also went to help, he was told that, You’re diligent as usual huh.
What can he do? It could be because he has a wife that was older than him – it seems that his body ended up moving first for this kind of things. Him being okay with being entrusted with weeding and wiping the windows was because of that. Because he had a terrifying wife, he would get shouted at every time he returned home.
Suddenly, a boorish thought went through Gaoshun’s head.
Well, if it’s Maomao she wouldn’t mind if he spoke of it, so he decided to ask her.“Shaomao, have you ever thought of about marrying?”
She was eighteen-years-old, already approaching the latter half of marriageable age.
It was because the inner palace was a special circumstance, it kept slipping from his mind, but her age was already one where parents would pester her about it.
“I’m interested in giving birth, but I have no thoughts about marrying.”
Her answer was quite a jump.
If that’s the case, does she mean that she wants children?
“However, since I’m not positive that I am interested in children, I can’t just recklessly get seed.”
Was she meaning that she was interested in the act of childbirth itself?
His head was going to hurt. “Please don’t carry it out.”
“I won’t do it until I can hold responsibility. Besides, my body is a mass of poison, I’ll need to start off by getting rid of the poison first.”
No, even if I give birth like that, no that can’t do. Maomao considered something absurd.
Sooner or later, is it. It was same as an experiment, already said before love or affection.
He didn’t know whether he should protest properly by that time.
While he extinguished the stove fire, Gaoshun scratched the back of his head.
He was interested in a completely troublesome person.
T/N: Another possible meaning for the title is “husband”.
New month, new arc. Hurrah! It’s a decently (heh) longish one, so bear with me. This volume should be where the Depiction of Cruelty tag kicks in.
I really like how the first chapters of every volume pretty much subtly(?) hints what’s going to happen.