Her surroundings were astir.
Wondering what was up, she walked over towards the entrance hall of the palace.
The palace ladies were already gathered at the extravagantly built entrance hall. There were also maidservants who had stood up with dust clothes in their hands, their wiping of the handrails forgotten.
“What business do you have here after all this time?”
A palace lady said, her brows knitted. Her gaze was in the direction of the sole court physician of the inner palace.
That court physician does his utmost to never leave the medical office. Hasn’t it already been close to a year since he appeared in this palace?
The incompetent court physician only in name, after the death of the infant crown prince, hadn’t dared to come here out of awkwardness. It was only with the reason that there was no replacement, that he could continue to remain in the garden of women carefreely without blame.
What could his business possibly be after all this time?
The court physician was carrying a wrapping cloth sack with pomp. A palace lady trailed behind him.
The palace lady was slim. She followed the medical office with smooth, graceful movements. Her tightly closed lips were painted with crimson rouge, and her cheeks were also lightly dusted with peach coloured powder.
Was there such a palace lady?
She suddenly thought that. She wondered if it was normal for eunuchs to have assistants similarly seeing as how the court physician eunuch had one? But it shouldn’t be the case?
No, the inner palace has two thousand palace ladies. It wouldn’t be strange to have one or two unknown faces.
Everyone, was in the middle of whispering amongst themselves, so she had no choice but to come out in front.
“What is your business?”
Noticing her voice, the chatting palace ladies stopped. She didn’t miss the maidservants who returned to their original stations in a fluster. To say nothing of the entirety of the inner palace, those who serve in this palace understand.
This was her own, Shin’s(杏, Xing in Chinese. Apricot), job.
When Rifa was decided as consort, she entered court along with her. They came to attain the emperor’s favour.
“I want an audience with the Able Consort.”
Shin squinted at the medical officer’s words. She didn’t want to hear the words “Able Consort” from the mouth of this man.
“My apologies. I don’t believe Rifa-sama would wish to grant an audience with you.”
When she gently but clearly voiced the refusal, the thin moustached court physician lowered his brows. He seems to be a eunuch who had already lost the function of a man – a pitiful moustache. It was a world of difference to the emperor who sported a beautiful, splendid beard.
The court physician made a troubled expression and looked back. The palace lady, whose face was like a Noh mask, quietly whispered into his ear.
The court physician reluctantly took out something from his breast pocket.
“I received this kind of note.”
He unfolded the note that was written on parchment. It was written stating to let this court physician in. The name noted at the end was “Jinshi”.
That beautiful eunuch, the mention of him in this inner palace first brought the personage to mind.
He possessed the beauty that could topple countries if he were a woman, but he wasn’t a woman. Nor was he a man.
It was certainly true that he was a personage that also made Shin involuntarily leak a sigh. But unlike the other palace ladies, she didn’t have anything beyond those feelings.
Why did Shin come to the inner palace? When she considered that, she didn’t have the free time to get preoccupied with a eunuch.
It was important for her to gain the emperor’s favour even for the sake of the clan. That, was something Shin and Rifa were told when they were young.
Shin’s mother, was Rifa’s father’s older sister. Because she was the same age as Rifa, she entered court, and had the position of managing the Crystal Palace they currently reside in.
The maids of the Crystal Palace, all of them, were the daughters of distinguished families and had the suitable pedigree to serve the emperor.
It cannot be helped that Shin doesn’t understand, she decided to guide them inside. She could have entrusted this to other palace ladies, but if the court physician came here under the command of the one who controls the inner palace, the situation was different.
What could this be about?
If the court physician comes to a consort’s palace, it would be when the consort’s health was bad.
There’s no such manner.
There’s no way Shin wouldn’t notice, being the one always close to Rifa. Her condition was good today, she even ate her breakfast.
What could this be about? She tilted her head. She couldn’t hear footsteps behind her. Shin turned back, and the court physician and his companion had halted their steps.
They were looking at the shed on the other side of the garden. Rifa’s room was far away. It was in the innermost chamber of the palace on the highest storey. This was one of the storage sheds along the way to get there.
“What is it?”
“No, I was wondering what shed that was.”
“It’s a normal storage shed.”
She wanted to lead them there quickly. Why is he asking about something like this, Shin thought.
The Crystal Palace was extensively reconstructed into a place fit to raise the crown prince. It wasn’t strange if there was a shed or a detached bathroom even. Moreover, the strange, freckled lass came last year and made a strange thing as a bathroom for some reason. It was called a sauna – Shin didn’t really like it, Rifa used it occasionally is all.
Though she had said it was a normal shed, the other palace lady was staring at it for some reason. Was there something interesting about it? There were just yellow flowers in pots by the window. It shouldn’t be that peculiar of a place.
It’s only a storage shed. They should quickly go.
The palace lady grabbed the eunuch’s sleeve and furtively whispered something.
The eunuch, once again, lowered his brows, and said to Shin.
“Has this garden been disturbed recently?”
“No, there is only just the usual gardener who we entrust it to.”
“Is that so.”
Huh, Shin thought. That saying, was there that kind of tree?
Did the gardener grow it without her being aware of it?
The eunuch kept silent, and the palace lady nudged the eunuch again.
The eunuch puffed out his cheeks, easy to understand. But the palace lady’s expression was unchanged, turning to face Shin.
Black eyes stared at Shin. Shin, saying nothing, was going to slowly avert her eyes when
“You, are wearing perfume today.”
It was a voice she recognised from somewhere.
The voice came from the lips of the graceful palace lady.
The palace lady’s curved into a smirk. This so-called smile was extremely wicked, it was a ferocious way of smiling, as if the moment a beast has sighted its prey.
“Long time no see. Shin-sama, excuse me for the other day.”
A face caked with plenty of face powder, eyes lined precisely, and excessively long eyelashes loomed towards her.
Though those eyes were inclined to the gaudy decorations, the contours of the face were round and young.
She recognised the sanpaku(三白眼, three whites eyes. Eyes where the whites below or above the pupil are visible.) eyes that stared at her.
Shin’s entire body froze. She understood through her experience that she was substantially worthless in regards to this person.
Last year, this girl turned up at the Crystal Palace. She constantly attended to Rifa and nursed her, but all throughout that, she did astounding things many times over.
Due to that, half of the palace ladies of this palace couldn’t defy this girl.
Shin was in the remaining half who wasn’t like that, but she was suddenly stripped by this girl who turned up a couple of days ago.
And because of that, this was a person she really didn’t want to deal with.
The girl stared at Shin. Shin found herself retreating slowly.
It was that moment.
The eunuch suddenly dashed towards the garden. The place he was somehow running towards with his plump body was that storage shed.
Shin was going to chase after him, but before her eyes was the lass she was weak towards. Still, she pushed her aside, and chased after the eunuch, but she was already too late.
Holding the door bar, with a look of mute amazement, the eunuch stood.
A peculiar scent wafted out of the opened door. It was the smell that Rifa gave off before, the stink of a sick person who was heading to the other world.
Perhaps the girl had fallen on her buttocks when Shin pushed her aside, she was rubbing her backside. But she didn’t look like she was in a hurry either. She only knitted her brows and grabbed the sack the eunuch had brought.
“Uncle! Hot water! Please boil some water!”
She said, without whispering into his ears this time, and entered the shed with the shrouded atmosphere.
There was a crude bed of piled woven mats. A sick person lying down on it. It was the maidservant who served as a laundry woman.
The eunuch ran off again, the fat on his chin swinging.
The girl, as she got the maidservant to drink something that seemed like water, looked at Shin.
“Why are you giving her this kind of treatment?”
“Even when you ask why, there’s nothing to it. Isn’t it common sense to quarantine her so the disease doesn’t spread?”
The girl said nothing in return. She must have something to say, but couldn’t say anything.
“I guess so. But.”
The girl held a towel over the mouth of the maidservant who was coughing strangely. When she removed it, there were red markings on it.
“This is a contagious disease. The infectiousness may be low, but if you continue to treat her this way, it will result in death. Of course, it is a trivial problem even if a single maidservant dies though.”
The girl set down the sick maidservant and tried to enter the shed again.
Shin involuntarily grabbed the girl’s shoulders to stop her, but she smoothly shook her off and went inside.
Stop. The inside has-
She was going to stop the girl while her foot was caught on the baggage, but it was already too late.
The girl had something in her hands. It was a small box.
“When I entered this room, I recalled that time. The time when Consort Rifa hid her illness.”
“What about it?”
“She was covered in perfume to hide the characteristic stink of a sick person.”
And what about it? Hurry up and return that, Shin stretched out her hand.
“I had the same feeling when I entered here. I’m against it this time though.”
The girl opened the small box. There were rows of small colourful bottles.
“To hide the smell of perfume, it looked like the sick person had put it. ”
The girl pulled off the stopper of a small bottle with a pop. Her nose twitched.
“The maids of the Crystal Palace, truly have a lot of things hidden. The poor eunuch will get whipped again.”
It was a bottle of perfume oil that the girl opened. It was a product that was obtained from the merchants a couple of days ago. They were things that the mostly recovered by the eunuchs.
“Each one is a small poison. I wonder what would happen if we mixed them.”
The girl laughed like she was singing a nursery rhyme, her eyes squinted in delight.