A couple of days after coming back from falconry, the new maids that had been mentioned before had arrived. There were three new people in the Jade Palace. With the exception of Maomao, they were acquaintances.
Maomao squinted at the three maids. And she thought right away.
(I can’t match their names with their faces.)
From the start, Maomao’s memory was only good for things she’s interested in. And so, it would be difficult for her to talk to the new maids for a while.
Well, Maomao originally didn’t speak that much, I’ll just gradually learn it, so she went to clean up.
The problem before all that-.
“Maomao. Properly return to your room.”
Infa declared, hands on her hips.
“You told me that my room is here.”
Maomao said, trying to cling to the storage shed that was in the garden of the Jade Palace. The compounding tools and a lot of dried medicinal herbs were placed inside there. Even though she had finally brought them all here from her room. What am I to do with the bracket fungus and ten thousand year mushroom I gathered a few days ago after this? She thought.
“That’s obviously a joke! And yet you took it as truth.”
Don’t set a bad example for the new maids, she scolded.
“No problem. I want to just use this as is.”
“I told you that you can’t! Come on, aren’t the new maids looking at you with weird eyes!”
And this way, Maomao who was clinging to the pillar of the shed and Infa who was dragging her created a strange spectacle.
If two palace ladies did such a thing, the head maid Honnyan wouldn’t be silent, and the two received friendly fists together.
In the end, Maomao had to return to her former room.
However, Honnyan, who had seen the large volume of compounding tools and the many medicinal herbs, had seemingly reported it to the master, Consort Gyokuyou, out of duty. The consort, who liked amusements, while laughing pleasantly, had allowed her to use the shed however she liked.
She was told that she must to use her room for sleep, but everything else, in particular, was as she pleased.
What a nice boss, Maomao thought, and as expected, Infa looked dissatisfied. She looked at Maomao who started to work cheerily in the storage shed. The tea parties were also over; there were no jobs until dinner time. Since three new maids had entered, the work in the Jade Palace had noticeably decreased.
(This is not good.)
Infa’s proposal was meddlesome for Maomao, but she was thinking about Maomao. So she could quickly get used to the new palace ladies, she probably said that. Today when they were having snacks, she recklessly tried to insert Maomao to talk with the new maids.
Infa was a considerate girl like this.
Maomao placed down the bracket fungus she was holding onto, and stealthily looked at Infa from the storage shed.
“…My apologies. I’ve just been doing as I pleased.”
As Infa said that, her lips were pouted.
Maomao, while hiding with half her body behind the wall, peeked at Infa.
Infa said, holding between the wall and faced Maomao.
“I’ll have you accompany me for a bit today.”
She firmly grabbed Maomao’s wrist, and an evil smile appeared on her face.
“Just now, the ones free tonight is just Maomao and me! Just as well—”
She shook Maomao’s hand she was holding onto with a truly playful tone.
(I’ve been done.)
As Maomao sighed deeply, she looked at the calculative maid.
That night, the place she was led to was an old building located on the south side of the inner palace. She was worried about whether Honnyan would allow them to go outside at night, but unexpectantly, the head maid readily passed down her permission.
“Occasionally, you should participate in something like this.”
(What is this something?)
Just what could this be? Maomao thought as she followed.
They walked relying on small lantern lights. The lukewarm wind was gross, the sounds of insects by her ears were noisy, but she couldn’t complain.
“Here, Maomao. Wear this.”
Infa said. The thing she held out to Maomao before the entrance was a thin cloth.
“Isn’t it hot?”
“It’s fine. It’ll get cold. Come on.”
While tilting her head, Maomao did as she was told.
Infa knocked on the entrance, and a palace lady appeared from the inside.
“Welcome. Two participants, right?”
“Yes, please take care of us.”
Maomao followed Infa, also lowering her head. The palace lady who greeted them, passed over small candles to the two of them while smiling. She told them to put out the lantern in turn.
The inside of the building looked just as old as the outside. More than saying that it got old from the passing of the long months and years, she felt it got suddenly damaged by the lack of residence. The barest minimum of cleaning was done, but the fittings were bad at places, and the floor creaked.
“This place was used during the era of the previous emperor.”
I see now, Maomao thought.
The current inner palace seemed like a large family, but the previous era had way more palace ladies. The women had been gathered from all over the country to bear the emperor’s children and were imprisoned here.
In the present times where the palace ladies had decreased, the places that are no longer used are sometimes utilised like this.
And, speaking of what it is used for-.
At the end of the hallway, when they entered the common room, there were already ten-odd guests who had arrived before them. Sitting around in a circle, all were wearing the cloth. The flickering candles each person was holding was somehow an eerie spectacle.
Speaking of what they were doing in the midsummer night.
Coming up to this point, she had a pretty good idea.
“Well then, shall we begin?”
The palace lady who welcomed them at the entrance sat down.
“Has everyone properly prepared their stories?”
The palace lady said, holding out lots made from pieces of a stick.
“Let us enjoy the stories that will chill thirteen guts tonight.”
Grinning, she looked very much eerie in the flickering flame.
Turns out, the ghost stories will be starting from this point onwards.
The arrangement was four people at the cardinal points, and two people between each space.
Maomao yawned as she hid half her face under the cloth. The first story, maybe because she was nervous about being the first speaker, was incoherent and didn’t have much presence. The story was also the standard of an inner palace rumour, so it didn’t go as far as to chill her guts.
When the second person started, Maomao’s right side was poked. Infa was on her left side.
It was a muffled, innocent tone. The person who was wearing the cloth over her head was someone Maomao recognised.
It was Shisui, the palace lady who got excited at insects from the other day. It seems she hadn’t noticed her in the darkness.
Shisui presented something to the sleepy Maomao. She had thought it smelt like the ocean – it was cuttlefish.
Maomao ate the tentacles, chewing slowly so she wouldn’t make a sound.
The second story was also an extremely commonplace ghost story. There was nothing particularly interesting about it, but since she had a different intonation to the story than the first story, there were a number of scared people. Infa next to her also wore the cloth over her head and listened while hiding her face at times.
It was fine if it was just that, but she occasionally stuck close to Maomao like she was clinging to her. She was unexpectedly strong for her short height, she occasionally got choked.
(She likes it even though she’s scared.)
It wasn’t that strange. Seeing as how she invited Maomao, she must have been scared to go alone.
She didn’t think that she didn’t like these type of engagements, but it seems that it was approved to a certain extent in the inner palace that hardly had any amusements. In truth, Honnyan also gave her permission and Shisui, who was a palace lady from Consort Rouran’s place, was also here. Though, in the case of Shisui, Maomao thought that she would have shown her face even if she didn’t get permission.
Just like that, half were finished. The distributed lights were snuffed out one by one whenever a story ended – there were half left. The seventh story began, and Maomao listened in a daze as she nibbled on cuttlefish.
The storyteller began her tale with the flickering flame lighting up her pale features.
This is a story from my hometown. My hometown had a forest where we were told since olden times that we mustn’t enter.
We were told that if we entered, we would get cursed, and our souls would get eaten by ghosts.
But, one time, there were people who broke the taboo.
That year, it seemed that the harvest was bad. Still, it wasn’t as bad as a famine, but there was a family where the breadwinner had just died, leaving behind a mother and her child.
Everyone didn’t have the means to help them either. It seems the child was always hungry.
So then, one day, it seems that the child, having nothing to eat, went into the taboo forest.
The child, smiling, gathered fruits and went back home.
They told their mother, “There’s a lot of food in that forest.”
The mother forbade the child from speaking of that, but it was too late. They ended up being summoned by the village head and warned to not enter the taboo grounds.
On top of that, something strange happened.
That night, there were people who saw swaying lights coming out from the house of the mother and child.
And then, the next day, the mother and child collapsed.
The villagers who feared the curse did not approach them. In the end, the mother and child died.
When the child died, the mother, before she passed away, seemed to have said this.
“Hey, I’ve got something good to tell you.”
Smiling as she tried to tell something, the mother died just like that.
In the end, without knowing what she wanted to say, the forest once again became a place of taboo.
Even now, we were still told that forest is taboo.
Nevertheless, when there are people that broke the taboo, that night, disembodied souls will enter the house, and take away the souls of the family.
(Ah, I see.)
Maomao listened to the story that wasn’t really interesting and strangely understood. There wasn’t any scary punch to it, but everyone was trembling as they listened. It was probably due to the atmosphere.
She drank the cuttlefish that had gotten soft in her mouth with a gulp, and matching that, she was presented with more cuttlefish.
“You’re making quite a strangely indifferent face.”
Shisui said with a muffled voice.
She was also like Maomao; she didn’t appear scared of the ghost stories.
“I guess so.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
Even if I spoiled it here for you now, it’ll just kill the entertainment, Maomao told Shisui.
In this world, even gossip has more or less an origin.