The next day, together with Airan’s return to the Jade Palace, Maomao was summoned by a certain person.
Contrary to who she was thinking, it was the middle-aged palace lady who had seized Maomao by the nape yesterday.
“So she said she wanted to meet Maomao.”
It was Consort Gyokuyou who spoke to Airan, who had her hand on her chin. They were in the living room; Airan was making an inquiry to the consort. The consort was stretched out on the couch. Her movements had become sluggish with her abdomen substantially bigger. Though she was wearing clothes that veiled her figure, there could be people outside who might have already noticed.
“My apologies. I should’ve drunk it here.” It seems Airan drank the medicine Maomao made yesterday at the clinic. She said she had been discovered by the palace lady and was asked where she got the medicine from.
As there wasn’t a court physician in the clinic, purposely bringing medicine inside, even though the use of medicine there was unpermitted, had to be no good. Being clearly not allowed to take it out, that would also attract the eyes from above.
Maomao wondered if she should promptly leave and get firmly told off, but then unexpected words came.
“It’s about whether they can borrow her for a short while,” Airan said.
“Oh my my.” Consort Gyokuyou tilted her head and looked at Maomao.
Airan also looked at Maomao with a troubled expression.
While Maomao found that it had become somewhat bothersome, she thought about new medicinal ingredients for now.
Consequently, it was decided that Maomao, who had come along as an observer before, will head to the clinic. Her chaperone wasn’t Airan, it was Infa who followed. She was shorter compared to Airan, but she appeared to be suited with her liveliness and clear-cut personality.
It may still be in the inner palace, but it was quite a trek. The talkable Infa wasn’t quiet to the point of being silent during this period. “Hey, Maomao. Yesterday, after sending Airan off, were you doing something by the garden lantern?”
“Did you see me?” Maomao asked.
It was after returning from the clinic, to be accurate, it was after meeting Jinshi and the others along the way.
“I went for a bit to see if there were ingredients for medicine.”
The lantern is lit when it got dark. In doing so, bugs will gather at that light. The creature she was targeting will approach.
“Something you’re looking for? It’s not a bug or something, right?” Infa asked.
“It’s not a bug.”
It certainly wasn’t a bug, but Infa’s expression shifted, sniffing out an unpleasant premonition. “Maomao, your room, recently, has too many things. Since the smell of medicine has kinda gotten intense, Honnyan-sama’s eyes are raised up.”
“It doesn’t look that scary, though.”
No way, Maomao thought. That head maid was very quick to act. However, if she wasn’t that strong-willed, she couldn’t be able to get on in the inner palace.
“Sooner or later, Maomao might get driven out from your room and get put in the storage shed next door,” Infa said, smiling widely.
“That would be nice.”
That storage shed was bigger than her current room, and above all, since it was distanced from everyone’s sleeping quarters, sounds wouldn’t escape in the middle of the night. Even though she took all the trouble of getting a lot of unused tools from the medical office, she was feeling gloomy that couldn’t use it here.
“Then, sometime as soon as we get back, I’ll have Honnyan-sama sound it out.” Maomao’s eyes shone.
“Eh, wait. Um….” Infa panicked and was going to say something to Maomao when they arrived at the clinic.
“Well then, shall we enter for now?” Maomao asked.
“That just then, wai-wait—”
If Maomao moved to the shed, while considering that she might even be able to do work that used fire, her hope grew.
The middle-aged palace lady was called Shenryu(深緑, shen lv). Maomao, looking really closely, saw that her eyes were the same green as Consort Gyokuyou’s. She might be mixed with western blood.
Maomao was shown to a place that seemed like the parlour of the clinic. It must have been originally a remodelled building of old consorts. Although it was devoid of pointless ornaments, the building itself wasn’t changed that much.
In the room that had the faint smell of alcohol, Shenryu took out tea for them. The table was plain, the shelves and chairs around it were also sturdy, but they look like they have used for a long time.
“I was utterly ignorant that you belong to the Noble Consort’s people. I’m sorry,” the palace lady said.
“It’s fine,” Maomao replied.
The other maids aside, Maomao’s upbringing wasn’t that good. For starters, she was in a position that was beyond her station. There were many times Consort Gyokuyou was called by her official title by maids aside from the Jade Palace ones.
Shenryu’s voice was calm. There was no hint of the gutsy aunty who was carrying a large batch of laundry from some time ago. She looks like she had properly received the education of an inner palace lady.
(She really is a clever person.)
Though they were known as inner palace ladies, there were also those who couldn’t read nor write. Such, that, those remaining for a long time in the inner palace had to be the clever ones. Otherwise, it could be that they have a special reason.
Maybe it was because she was talking to Consort Gyokuyou’s maids, Shenryu’s expression seemed slightly shadowed.
Thinking it as special treatment, Maomao felt there was something wrong. There was a tendency where many have their eyes closed when it came to high ranking consorts and their maids. Despite this, where Shenryu began dealing with them by calling them out was concerned, even the person herself must feel uncomfortable.
However, Shenryu sighed deeply and looked straight ahead. “There’s something I wish to ask of you.”
“What would that be?” Maomao had said it nonchalantly, but Shenryu displayed a momentary look of surprise. However, she straightened her expression and continued speaking.
“You might feel it’s impolite, but would that be alright?”
“Go ahead.” Maomao was used to being treated rudely by others. Rather, she didn’t consider that she, herself, did something wrong. And so, Maomao had confidence in the general idea of what the person was going to say.
“Then, even if I ask you to make medicine for a palace lady from the Able Consort’s place?” Shenryu asked.
It was Infa who reacted, not Maomao. So that she could slap the table, her body was pitched forward. The tea in the bowls shook, splashes making black stains.
“What you’re insinuating, do you understand!” Infa said to Shenryu.
Shenryu sighed again. “I understand deeply,” she said, focusing on them.
Shenryu didn’t seem to be joking. What could the reason be? Maomao thought.
“You seem to have a reason,” she said.
“Maomao!” Infa cried.
“Excuse me, would it be possible if you can just listen to what I have to say?” Shenryu asked.
Infa sat down, her brows lowered. She gulped down the cooled tea, calming herself down.
“Will you listen to the situation?” the older palace asked.
Shenryu began to string her story together.
“It became such a bothersome thing, huh,” Infa said, her shoulders unusually drooped.
“I suppose so.”
Once again, Maomao heard something she thought was a pain but couldn’t disregard.
The Able Consort, namely Consort Rifa’s maidservant had been inflicted with a serious illness.
And that, it seems that sick person was still in the Crystal Palace.
Being a maidservant who went to the north washing area for washing since before, Shenryu said the person in question was an acquaintance of hers. She had said that the person had a strange cough from a while back, so she once told that person it was better if she took a proper rest, but after that, it had been five days since she stopped coming here.
Her washing place might have changed, or the washing duty might have changed, she had said, though she shook her head.
“Whatever the case, I think it’s better to take a look once.”
And that was what Shenryu had said.
She had said that the person was coughing, and that it seemed to be a strange cough.
(A cough, huh.)
It had been several days she hadn’t come since she had started to cough, and before that, she continued having a sense of fatigue and fever.
When Shenryu asked if she properly went to the clinic, she got a no. She was told that permission wasn’t given.
(That place was in the wrong.)
It was likely that with the level of a maidservant, they would be asking Consort Rifa for permission. It was highly possible that some maid would ignore that sort of maidservant’s words.
Connecting the symptoms, Maomao ran into an unpleasant premonition.
“Even so, would she really be there? That child.” Infa said.
“I think we need to investigate.”
Hypothetically, if that was true, she must be treated properly. It is possible that it would expand to an issue that affected not just the Crystal Palace.
Infa stared at Maomao. “I know you have that sort of curious character, but there’s a place for things. You should know properly from the inquiry on the things you should say. Occasionally, rushing headlong into things is not a good thing to do.”
While it was true that she somewhat an affinity with Consort Rifa, she cannot just thoughtlessly go to her palace. She made too much of a blunder a couple of days ago.
First of all, she wasn’t acting for Jinshi. The talk would not go ahead.
She wanted to go immediately, but she was unable to have her way with it.
(Even if I’m impatient, there’s nothing I can do.)
Maomao considered other things – it was the time to slightly take her mind of it. Something entered her range of vision.
Maomao inadvertently took off, running for that thing. She leapt onto the ground like a frog and finally caught it.
“Maomao! What are you doing after talking?” Holding onto her sleeves, Infa came closer.
Though Maomao made a slightly bitter expression, she stood up, feeling the thing between her palms. “My apologies. I saw something I was looking for, so I just-”
“Was the thing you’re looking for the usual bug? Stop that.”
“It’s not a bug.”
It wasn’t a bug.
And it wasn’t the real body either.
Unfortunately, the real body had escaped, but the thing Maomao wanted, for now, was moving in her hands.
“Here.” She opened her hands. There was a lizard’s tail that was still lively hopping around.
The lizard’s tail was still alive even if it had come off. That was the key.
(I can’t give up by doing nothing.)
It was the end when you give up, some sage must have said it. To create a yet unknown medicine, you begin by investigating something that had a similar property first of all.
That’s why, Maomao aimed for the moths that gathered at the garden lantern, and checked to see whether lizards were living there.
“For now, I want to investigate why the tail is alive,” Maomao had said it slightly happy tone, but she didn’t get a reply.
Seeing it before her eyes, Infa, whose face had gone pale, gapped her mouth in shock. And then, just like that, she collapsed backwards.
Maomao wrapped the tail she caught in a towel, put it in her bosom, and had to look after Infa who had fainted in the end.