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A couple of days later, the ivory pipe was delivered to Maomao’s place along with a letter. The sender was Rihaku.
(You should’ve just done that in the first place.)
So in the end, him directly coming to meet up with Maomao was so he could talk to someone about Pairin. Normally, if you talk about redeeming a courtesan, you would be persuaded to just “Give up”. Since Maomao knew about the brothel, he probably wanted to talk to her.
Maomao squinted at the ivory pipe. It’s a good item; it should be valued at more than one silver.
(What does he mean, unwanted?)
Maomao set the pipe down on the desk, and resumed reading the letter.
Seeing the description that was written there, Maomao raised her eyebrows.
‘Are there anything among these that can be poisonous?’
So it said.
(You should’ve just asked me earlier.)
Why did he put off such an important matter? Maomao thought.
Her lips curved, to the point of impudence. Even she thought it was ridiculous, but that was Maomao’s nature so it can’t be helped. She traced the audacious words with her finger, her eyes squinted in delight.
That night, a visitor turned up at the Jade Palace. Today, it was a noble gentleman sporting a beautiful beard. Namely, it was the emperor.
The maids, for as much as they could, hurried to make the bedroom without raising their heads. They lit the emperor’s favourite incense and prepared a supper that bolstered vitality. Of course, this was all for appearances. His actual objective was to play with his sole daughter, Princess Rinrii.
Consort Gyokuyou didn’t really like gaudy things, but since her birthplace was a trading post, her room was littered with furnishings from other countries. Her couch was the same, even the shape of her incense burner was a little different to what Maomao knew.
Consort Gyokuyou had a character where she paid attention to unseen places, so she was particular about the lining of clothes, incense, and the such.
Perhaps to thank the emperor for his fatigue, an incense that composes emotions was lit. Consort Gyokuyou, with undivided attention for that point, always lit the incense that she chose herself.
It was a pity that Infa and the others weren’t allowed to use the perfumes they bought themselves. The intention was that things that could harm the body were taken out just in case, but in this case, it appeared that the scents clashed with the incense that was being used.
Since the supper had become quite warm, there was a refreshing salad of seafood and seaweed dressed in citrus vinegar, and eight-treasure porridge that was heaped with jujubes and legumes. This noble gentleman is really aimed at health despite his appearance.
As usual, Maomao ate the vinegared dish that was served up on a silver dish. She had to eat quickly since silver tarnishes in acidity. Since doing that would make this meaningless, we’ll have to change the dishes to normal ones after this, Maomao thought.
She picked up the seafood and seaweed with a pair of chopsticks and put it in her mouth. Speaking of seaweed, she recalled the incident from the other day. That time, the official’s younger brother who was taken as the perpetrator had died in prison.
Not even knowing whether it was simply food poisoning or a poisoning, that sort of incident.
Suddenly, something connected inside Maomao.
Her voice leaked out unintentionally.
The emperor and Consort Gyokuyou, and then Honnyan, looked at Maomao.
“Wh-what is it?”
Honnyan said, her voice hitched at Maomao’s tone.
Remembering that she was in the middle of food tasting, Maomao thought, Ah crap.
“No, there’s nothing wrong.”
Maomao shook her head.
“I-is that so. Then that’s fine.”
Honnyan said, staring at Maomao.
The expression on the emperor’s face was unreadable. Princess Rinrii was touching his beard. Consort Gyokuyou was watching Maomao with sparkling eyes.
(There isn’t anything amusing of the sort.)
Amusing wasn’t good. Since this had to do with people dying.
Thinking that, Maomao set down the chopsticks.
“I heard that you know who is the perpetrator of the incident from the other day.”
In the room of the inner palace chief, Jinshi said.
As usual, the chief has left her seat, so there was only Jinshi, Maomao and Gaoshun in the room. Perhaps Jinshi was staying for a while, there were a couch and a long desk prepared in the plain yet spacious room. There was a basket of fruits set in the middle of the table.
The incident from the other day was the incident where the man who attempted to poison the official had died. He had died from eating the meal he was treated to after the Spring Garden Party. She was sure that it was still unknown whether it was a poisoning or a simple food poisoning.
“I don’t know that much.”
Maomao had handed a message over to Jinshi, reporting to him that there was something about that incident that she wanted to talk about. It was only just that. It was troubling that he leapt to such a conclusion.
“I only know, how, the ingredients with poison was chosen.”
“You sure? About that.”
Speaking in such an ambiguous manner would get dad angry huh, Maomao thought. Her dad, the former court physician, hated ambiguous evidence.
Such that, Maomao mustered her confidence and went to meet Jinshi like this. Going out of their way to change the location was also because they understood that Consort Gyokuyou would eavesdrop if they speak about this at the Jade Palace.
“You said you didn’t know what ingredients were given out, but you know what the other prisoners ate, right.”
“If it’s that’s much.”
On behalf of Jinshi, Gaoshun started to write what was given out the prisoners on a sheet of paper.
Maomao nodded, I see, as she looked over that.
(I thought it was possibly like this.)
Maomao grasped the message in her bosom. It was the letter she received from Rihaku yesterday. The same thing Gaoshun had written down was exactly what was on that letter.
It was possible, but it might be that Rihaku had thought this incident was suspicious as well. Although he was a person in the military, it was a strange coincidence that he sniffed out the same thing, Maomao thought.
That’s exactly why Maomao had noticed it too.
“You mean that there is something with poison among these?”
Jinshi sat on the chair, scanning the page.
Soup and pickles, sliced meat and grilled fish. It doesn’t seem like there was anything unusual.
Maomao picked up the brush, and drew a wavy line on several dishes there were written down.
These were all dishes that were prepared as appetisers.
“Incorrect. Rather, it’s the opposite. These all don’t have poison.”
Maomao set down the brush, and repeatedly tapped the dishes with the wavy line with her finger.
“How is the order of the dishes delivered to the prisoners decided?”
“…Standardly, it is delivered from the front of the prison. They choose what they like from the dishes that are presented. Since the prisoners closer to the front have lighter crimes, they have options to pick from.”
Gaoshun answered. Maybe it was because he was formerly in the military, how detailed, Maomao thought.
“Then, where was the dead man’s cell positioned?”
“Until he has officially judged, he is positioned in the front.”
Around there, Jinshi and Gaoshun’s faces gave a start.
“You mean, he chose it? The dish with poison.”
“How did he?”
At Jinshi’s question, Maomao once again looked over the dish she pointed out a moment ago. The appetisers didn’t have anything unusual about them, but there was a certain commonality.
“These were all dishes that were made using seaweed.”
About seaweed, the dead man couldn’t have gotten a good impression on it. He also had recognised it as a deadly poison.
Did he need to choose it specifically?
Several varieties of appetiser were prepared. All were dishes that were made with seaweed, except for the one dish arranged that didn’t use seaweed.
Afterwards, they prepared only enough for the number of prisoners, and just had to pass those over to the jailer.
Aside from the name of the dishes, Rihaku’s letter also roughly wrote down the ingredients. She was struck with this method when she connected the dishes from Rihaku’s letter and the incident from the other day.
If it was the case, there was one other thing she understood.
And that was—.
“The one who did it, might be someone who knew about seaweed poison. This is only just a hypothesis though.”
Maomao thought it was mysterious. On how the man could’ve known about seaweed poison.
Maomao had known it as knowledge since her dad, who you could say was out of the norm, had taught her various things. Was the man also taught by someone?
To speak about concern, she was concerned.
If it was written down on a document somewhere, she wanted to see it.
But it was most suspicious if he was taught. Currently, this possibility was the highest.
Maomao looked at the two troubled eunuchs.
Though she was interested, what happens afterwards didn’t concern Maomao. Rather, she was reflecting that she said too much.
In the middle of worrying over it, Maomao had stretched her hand out towards the fruits before her eyes. They were unusual fruits from the southern countries, her hands had just wanted to reach for it.
Wasn’t non-dried lychee really unusual? Just as she was going to sneakily help herself with only one, her eyes met up with Jinshi.
Maomao had stopped moving, but her outstretched hand had advanced to the front of the basket.
Jinshi picked up the fruits basket, and presented a branch laden with lychees before Maomao.
“Good job. Your reward.”
Jinshi made a first-rate smile, placing the lychees on Maomao’s palm.
“Thank you very much.”
Maomao meekly said her thanks.
She thought to go dry half as medicine, and have the other half as a snack.
“I have expectations for next time too.”
As he said that, the beautiful eunuch elegantly left the room.
(I really just can’t stand that huh.)
Maomao peeled off the skin with her fingers, and carried the white fruit to her mouth. While thinking, This is really tastier than the dried stuff, she licked her wet fingers.
(Again, that side of him is better.)
That childishness you see occasionally when his expression crumbles a bit, is more natural hm, Maomao thought.
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.