“Is that true?” Maomao said.
Jinshi had turned up three days after the Spring Party speaking of suspicious things. Although she was doubtful of what he said, Maomao was looking at Jinshi. They were in the parlour of the Jade Palace. Consort Gyokuyou was going to come by later as she was in the middle of changing clothes.
“Yeah, I’m unsure if I should say it though,” Jinshi said, scratching the back of his head.
The criminal had died on the night of the Spring Party. No, correctly, it was the man who had been deemed as the criminal.
Ironically, the younger brother, who tried to poison his brother the other day by disguising it as fugu poisoning, had died from poisoning while imprisoned. “It didn’t seem like there was that sort of situation when Gaoshun came over yesterday.”
Maomao glanced over to the taciturn eunuch who was standing against the wall. Gaoshun nodded slowly, confirming.
“I also heard about it yesterday evening.” Making a complicated expression, Jinshi cast his eyes down.
Seeing that, Maomao considered the reason for the time lag.
Jinshi’s position should be the Inner Palace Administrator. With that in consideration, it was obvious that it would be originally out of his field to handle the case. When she considered that, it also wouldn’t be strange if he heard about it later.
On the other hand, she felt that he was making a displeased face for that obvious thing.
Still, she would have understood if it was just Gaoshun. He did say he worked in something similar before, and his friend from the looks of it should have solved that incident.
Why is Jinshi frowning? Maomao thought.
“Is that so? Are the other prisoners also poisoned?”
Gaoshun refuted Maomao’s question. He shook his head. “No, the prisoners were provided two meals a day, but there didn’t seem to have anything strange in it.”
“Then what could it be?”
It was Jinshi who replied next. “The criminal was also treated to a meagre meal after the party.”
It turns out the meal he was provided had no way of being the same as everyone else to preserve the form of giving leftovers. And not only that, it seems to be common to include something extra in the form of a gift. Doing that was originally prohibited, but since everyone had wine after the party, it became customary for the jailers to close their eyes too.
(I see huh.)
If that was the case, it would be late for Jinshi and them to hear about it. So to speak, since it was an internal mistake, they must have wanted to keep it under wraps.
“And then, do they know what poison was it?”
“That’s the thing.” Jinshi put his hands in his sleeves and groaned.
Maomao wanted to ask for more details, but since the faint sound of footsteps was closing in, she slipped over to stand before the door.
Standing quietly on the side of the door, Maomao lowered her head.
She felt the door open with a clunk. Consort Gyokuyou who had finished changing walked in.
“Did you all talk about anything fun?” The beautiful red-haired consort sent mutual gazes towards Maomao and Jinshi. It looked like curiosity was about to fly out from her eyes.
“No no, we were just chatting.” Jinshi was overly prepared, sending an almost uncanny smile towards Consort Gyokuyou. It was ineffective to the consort, as expected, but Honnyan who was affected by the spill-over looked like she was going to stumble, though she somehow recovered with the willpower of a head maid.
Maomao regarded him with an icy gaze – she can’t help thinking sometimes that Jinshi was some kind of ayakashi(あやかし, this is used both as a general term for supernatural beings, as well as a specific kind of spirit that is found on the surface of the water that lures unsuspecting peoples away. I translated it as ‘apparition’ before, but I supposed that didn’t carry the same connotations for it.). The head maid was able to resist, but the three maidens who were watching from behind her were destroyed.
(He’s an ayakashi no matter how I see him.)
While she was thinking about that, before she knew it, she was facing Jinshi with a dangerous look. Gaoshun glanced at Maomao, and for some reason, Jinshi was looking towards her with delight.
(The usual turn of events huh.)
As she was thinking that, Maomao quietly exited the room.
After Jinshi and the others went back, Honnyan told the maids to bring out the summer clothes. She felt it was still a little early in the season, but considering the quantity, it would be better to be early.
“There are quite a lot of old-fashioned designs huh.” Infa was breathing roughly when she stood dauntingly before the dressing room.
Guien was looking after the princess, so it was decided that the three – Infa, Maomao, and Airan – would go out.
Airan seemed to mind, but since she had stature, it was convenient that it was easy for her to reach for the trunks that were high up.
Maomao and Infa, who had no stature, took the trunks from Airan and verified the contents.
“I guess, this one still could work.” Infa separated the clothes into usable and unusable groups as she looked at them one by one.
They all looked like high-class articles to Maomao, but it seems that Infa who had a discerning eye could tell the difference. “This one, was extremely popular one time. Once the popularity passes, it’s useless since you can’t just use it anymore.”
Maomao crammed the clothes that had been deemed unusable back into the trunk, and carried it out into the corridor.
Even the old clothes were something the consorts had used. They said that since the materials were fine, they will be remade and then bestowed. Those weren’t given to the maids of the Jade Palace, but were sent to their families.
The maids do receive ornaments like kanzashi, but in the case of clothes, since they weren’t clothes that you wear grandly inside the inner palace, it will be sent around to the hands of workers and delivered to Gyokuyou’s father’s territory in a different form.
“That saying, in a little while, there might be new maids coming in.” Airan, as if she just remembered, said as she brought down the trunks. “There should be more people if Gyokuyou-sama’s pregnancy is known. But, just that will arouse suspicion, so they said that for this period all the consorts are given the chance to increase their numbers of maids.”
Hearing that, Infa’s mouth gaped open. “I’m happy for that, but that’s too sudden.”
“There seems to be a reason. I mean, one consort had over fifty servants when she entered court. The other consort, you know.”
“Ahh, you mean that.” Infa’s face darkened at that moment.
Maomao also understood who they were talking about.
(She even had fifty huh.)
It certainly looked like a large family, but I didn’t know it was like that, Maomao thought.
In regards to that, if the emperor’s favoured consort had only five maids with her, it would look bad.
“Have they made no effort in decreasing that?”
“Infa, if you say that, you’ll get crushed by Honnyan-sama again,” Airan said.
Oh no, Infa covered her mouth.
Maomao focused on bringing the unused articles in the trunks outside.
While they were chatting as they worked like that, about half of the summer clothes remained.
“We only have this little left. What should we do?” Maomao also tilted her head when she asked.
Airan laughed, saying, “It’s alright. We already requested the workers for several sets of clothes.”
“The caravans are coming soon. We’ll buy more then,” Infa continued. Catching the remark, Airan made a slightly sulky face.
“Caravans, you say?” Maomao asked.
Once again, there seems to be an event that the palace ladies of the inner palace are delighted with, Maomao thought as she carried the summer wear to dry them in the shade.
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.