The person leaning over was looking at Maomao with a blank expression. The face she’s making somehow reminds me of a squirrel, Maomao thought.
“I’ll be happy if you could move aside.”
Maomao said, but the girl didn’t budge. Her hands, placed right on top of Maomao’s head, didn’t move.
She was making a somewhat awkward expression.
Maomao could pretty much guess what happened.
“I’ll be happy if you move aside quickly. I don’t want to have the insect stuck on my head.”
The moment the girl sprang upon her, she heard a crunch.
What she guessed, was that something got smashed.
The girl, making a bitter smile, slowly moved off Maomao.
It felt good when she poured cold well water over her head. It felt good, but it didn’t get rid of the gross feeling.
The girl held out a towel to the soaked Maomao. Maomao took it with thanks and dried herself.
The insect cage that was hanging from the girl’s sash had several burnt-coloured bugs inside. Their wings trembled and they made a bell-like sound.
“Were you trying to catch those insects?”
With some awkwardness, the girl faced Maomao with her eyes sparkling.
It seems this was because Maomao was talking about insects.
What should I do if that’s the case? Maomao thought. The girl took Maomao’s hand and dragged her over to the other side of the well. They were under the shade of the trees, and there was a wooden box in a place where it was easy to sit. Sit here, the girl tapped the wooden box.
She had a very unpleasant premonition.
And she was pretty much on the mark.
“So you see, this insect lives in the island country of the east. It makes a sound when it flutters its wings.”
The girl spoke, gazing at the insect cage.
“It is likely, that these guys were escapees from among the trade goods. I think, they only inhabit here, in this country.”
It seems so, Maomao sluggishly made an agreeable response.
“Its colours are somewhat similar to cockroaches, but it’s alright since it’s a different creature.”
I shouldn’t have asked, Maomao thought. She scrubbed her head with the towel once again.
And just like so, the girl who spoke without a lisp, slowly talked about the insects for a quarter-dual-hours(30min). Maomao tried to cut in every now and then to break it up, and each time, her sleeves were tugged and she was stopped.
She had no choice but to listen.
She understood that the girl was focused on talking about her own interests, but she wanted to tell her that it was troublesome to listen.
(If it’s medicine, that would still be fine though.)
That saying, Maomao remembered.
“Hey, you know much about medicines?”
She decided to force a topic change. She was pretty sure this girl turned up at the medical office to pick up medicine. If the quack doctor was telling the truth, she should be able to compound.
“Eh, medicine? I suppose so. I can do the simple stuff since my older sister taught me to remember it. Before, I got medicine from the old man here, but it was terrible. If that’s the case, it would be better if I made it myself.”
What an awful way of putting the quack doctor. Well, it can’t be helped. It was true.
“Your older sister taught you?”
I’m kinda interested in that, Maomao thought.
It wasn’t absent, but female pharmacists were few. She was super interested.
“Yeah, when I was young. I only know the simple medicines though.”
“Is she in the inner palace?”
“Not the inner palace, she’s being a court lady in the imperial court.”
That’s unfortunate, Maomao thought.
With the conversation paused, Maomao could finally stand up.
“I have work to do.”
“Ehh, let’s talk a bit more.”
“…, I’ll consider if it’s something other than insects.”
No, caterpillar grass might work though.
When she tried to return the wet towel as it is, the girl smiled in delight.
“I’m, called Shisui(子翠, Zi Cui).”
Maomao, after just saying that, decided to return to the Jade Palace.
Shisui waved her hands widely, “See you—“.
She thought she wasn’t a bad child, she thought but.
Maomao touched her head.
There was still the feeling of that crunch.
When she returned to the Jade Palace, the regular eunuch was in the middle of visiting. The eunuchs who followed Jinshi were waiting outside the palace. As it was Jinshi and Gaoshun who entered the palace, the eunuchs aside from them had to wait outside.
(It’s tough in the middle of the heat.)
The eunuchs fanned themselves as it was hot. She saw the water laid out on the outside table; someone must have given it out. This season, if you neglect hydration, you could faint. Good call, Maomao thought.
As soon as she returned, Guien called out to Maomao.
“Gyokuyou-sama is calling.”
Maomao hurried over to the guest room where Consort Gyokuyou was.
She could imagine the gist of what was up at this sort of time.
As she thought, sitting comfortably on the couch, was the waiting eunuch.
Maomao briefly greeted him with a nod and went to stand in front of Consort Gyokuyou.
“Gyokuyou-sama, what do you require of me?”
“It’s not me who has business.”
Consort Gyokuyou was drinking warm fruit juice. In truth, she preferred cider with expensive ice, but she avoided that with her pregnancy.
To escape the heat, Honnyan was waving a fan beside her.
“It’s me who has business.”
Jinshi said, his face beautiful as usual.
Just like Honnyan, Gaoshun was fanning Jinshi.
Originally, this should be done by someone with a more lower position, but seeing that there weren’t anyone, it had to be the usual secret talk.
“What kind of business?”
“I was thinking of wanting to have her returned for a couple of days.”
‘Return’ referred to the form where Maomao was lent to Consort Gyokuyou from Jinshi. Until Consort Gyokuyou gave birth with no issues, they had decided that Maomao will stay with her.
“Oh my. What about food tasting during that period?”
Consort Gyokuyou pressed.
“I did not overlook that point. In exchange, I shall lend you my maid. Though she isn’t as knowledgeable as this girl, she is a person that is familiar with the types of poison.”
“Can I trust you?”
“Those are strict words.”
Consort Gyokuyou made a malicious smile.
Speaking of Jinshi’s maid, Maomao could only think of one person. It was the middle-aged palace lady, Suiren.
Certainly if it that person, she would come around as a substitute for Maomao at least.
However, if that’s the case, who will look after Jinshi? Maomao thought. The good-natured old housekeeper always pampered the grown-adult young master.
“For a couple of days you say, where will you be going out to?”
“Yes, I was invited to go falconry.”
That again, was a high society pastime.
“They said it will be in Shishou-sama’s territory.”
Jinshi was grinning, but his expression was well-guarded.
If she remembered correctly, that was the high official said to be Consort Rouran’s father.
Was it her imagination that she thought it was somewhat suspicious?
Don’t drag me into troublesome things, Maomao thought. No, if it’s falconry, are we able to eat fresh rabbits too, I wonder, she considered.
(If you must, more than rabbit meat, cakes with rabbit would be good huh.)
The rabbits on the moon pound medicine with a mallet. There was that sort of fairy tale.
“How tough. Even to socialise.”
“Even this one has various things to say about it.”
“And so, you said you want to borrow Maomao, right.”
“Yes, I mentioned I want you to return this girl.”
Consort Gyokuyou’s eyes lit up with a sparkle.
“Would it be fine if it wasn’t Maomao? I have others besides her.”
“No, I would be fine if you just return this girl.”
Was it her imagination that there were sparks, somehow, in the space between Jinshi and Consort Gyokuyou? Maomao, for now, took over fanning for Honnyan whose hands were tired.
“Ummm, which child should I lend you?”
“I said, I just want that girl returned.”
Consort Gyokuyou giggled, her eyes squinted.
“Fufufu, you keep on calling her just ‘that girl’ from way back.”
“…And what about it?”
Jinshi’s face was slightly twisted.
“Hey, Gaoshun. What do you call Maomao?”
Consort Gyokuyou asked the taciturn attendant playfully.
“I call her Shaomao.”
Comparatively, for his reticence, it was a familiar way of calling her.
Consort Gyokuyou faced Jinshi with eyes like she was tracking down game.
“Hey, then, what do you normally call Maomao?”
Jinshi made an awkward expression and glanced at Maomao.
(That saying, he never called me by my name huh.)
Maomao realised, once again.
(I don’t really care though.)
Despite this, it was mysterious why Jinshi looked uncomfortable.
At such a Maomao, Honnyan poked her elbow and make a look like she wanted to say something, but she didn’t understand that either.
T/N: It took a heck of a long time, but we finally meet the star of this arc. She’s quite the pure character, isn’t she 😀
Two. More. Chapters— ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)