It was when the sounds of cricket became more conspicuous than cicadas.
As usual, Maomao was lazing about in the washing area. Close to the pool, just where there was sunlight filtering through the trees, was the place where the maidservants had designated as their chatting area. Amid the bit of hotness that still remained, the passing wind was refreshing.
Today’s snacks were the mahua she had received from Consort Gyokuyou as leftovers. It was something that had a shape of twisted rope. It was a high-class item that had crunchy powdered sugar inside.
“Hey, about the Consort-sama from Maomao’s place.”
As usual, Shaoran, who was speaking as she was crunching on it scrumptiously, was in the middle of chatting with Maomao.
“Could it be that, she is unwell with something?”
(I thought it was about time the subject would come up.)
Consort Gyokuyou’s abdomen has gotten so large that she was no longer able to hide it no matter how she tries. With the number of tea parties decreased, there must be people who paid attention to that she hasn’t gone outside either. Even if they don’t know about her pregnancy, there had to be those who think there was something about it that’s disquieting.
Maomao displayed her tilting her head as she crunched on the mahua.
No one around them had noticed their conversation. Maomao took about another package of mahua from her bosom.
Maomao considered how she could cover it up as she looked at Shaoran who was stuffing her cheeks with snacks.
She recalled something fitting now what she thought it up.
“You know about the ghost story meeting in the inner palace at night?”
“Ah, I know, I know! It seems something came out.”
Gossip really is fast, Maomao admired.
“I heard, the one who came out was the palace lady who died here. She was already considerably old, but it seems there was a reason she couldn’t leave.”
It seems, she didn’t know about the fine details of that part.
Maomao thought it might be boorish to reveal it, she just nodded with sounds of agreement, when she saw a hand sneak out from the side for the mahua.
“This looks delicious. Can I eat it?”
“You’re already eating it.”
The one crunching on Maomao’s snack was Shisui. Maomao was already full, so she gave the rest to her. Shisui raised her voice in happiness.
Shisui’s attire today was duty robes, in other words, she was wearing the same washing duty garments as Shaoran.
(I wonder where she got that from.)
Since she is a palace lady attached to Consort Rouran, her garments should have been supplied from elsewhere. However, it could be rude if she said that maidservant robes suited Shisui more for some reason.
“So, ghost story?”
“That ghost story.”
Shisui, who wasn’t shy, very naturally inserted herself into the conversation. Shoran, who was the same, also took it naturally. What a difficult feat, Maomao admired.
“It’s the story of the palace lady who died in the inner palace.”
“It’s that. It’s the palace lady who wasn’t able to get out of the inner palace in the end.”
“Eh? You know about it? What kind of story is it!?”
Shisui mentioned what Maomao refrained from saying. Besides, it wasn’t Shaoran who didn’t get into it.
“Let’s see. It was said that she couldn’t get out with the reason being that she became the previous emperor’s mistress, but it wasn’t like that in truth.”
Maomao’s ears twitched, thinking, “Huh?” She tilted her head. For some reason, the story was a little different to what she had heard from Honnyan.
Shaoran stared at Shisui as she was chewing. Shisui put on airs, saying, “How should I say this—“, and started the story.
“It’s a famous story though. The previous emperor had a bit of a problematic taste—”
He possessed no interest in any type of women. The empress, the empress dowager at the time, being exasperated, had rapidly enlarged the inner palace to see what kind of women he was interested in.
And then, one day, it was said that she said this to a retainer.
Hand over your daughter.
A maiden that was well-known even in the capital as a peerless beauty.
It was everything he desired for the retainer, a good foothold for promotion.
However, for his daughter, it was something unbearable.
She already had a betrothed, but she couldn’t defy the empress’ orders, so she entered court with several maids.
Everyone leaked a sigh at her beauty. If it was like that, it was thought that the emperor would also be satisfied.
“The one he laid his hands on was a maid of hers. Moreover, it was an innocent eleven-year-old girl.”
Hearing that, Shaoran’s face contorted.
Even Maomao, who has heard that story before, had a strong reaction against it.
The reason he didn’t move his finger at the beauty, was because she was overgrown.
How much of her pride had been torn?
Afterwards, that maid was promoted. It was a short time when she even got her own palace. The emperor, who lost interested in the maid who then grew up laid his hands on a new palace lady. Wherever it could have been heard of, it became that young girls were sent to the inner palace in succession.
The forgotten maid lived forsaken in the inner palace.
“When the emperor passed away, she could leave the inner palace.”
The outside wasn’t the maid’s place to go.
As she was embarrassed towards the master she serves, it was said that she passed her remaining years in the inner palace, without ever returning to her hometown.
It was said that she lived with just the trivial amusement of gathering scary stories as provisions.
“And that was the story!”
Even though she spoke in a gloomy tone up until now, Shisui finished it in a strangely casual note.
Unusually, Shaoran had a depressed expression.
“That’s kinda, pitiful. It wasn’t that person’s fault, wasn’t it!”
Shaoran puffed her mouth largely.
That was true. She didn’t have the means to oppose. However, that was a prevalent absurdity in this world. The ones that have it have it, the ones that don’t don’t, that was all.
“I know right—. Nothing could be done even if she resented it—“
Shisui, who declared it in a casual tone, put all the remaining mahua in her mouth, chewed a couple of times, and swallowed.
“Mm, but then, after that, the beauty who wasn’t chosen was bestowed to a certain high official. You know about the ‘Blade’ of the North?”
Shaoran tilted her head.
Maomao also thought What? in the beginning, but then she recalled the story she heard from Basen the other day. It was the country called Rii that had three Blades underneath the Flower. The Blade of the North signified Shishou, in other words, Consort Rouran’s father.
(The high official who received a bestowed woman huh.)
While feeling the cause and effect, as it was about time she had to work, Maomao jumped off from the wooden box.
Gaoshun entered the dim office with a sigh.
“Please put on some light at least.”
A withered nobleman was slumped over the office desk.
“This much is good enough.”
Jinshi, the nobleman, while looking at the documents with a sidelong glance, stamped a seal of approval with a lack of motivation. He was working, for the time being, but he was extremely slow. Amid that, other work piled up in succession.
Gaoshun, while wondering what he should do, decided to give a report on his own work.
“This is from the caravan incident from the other day. They don’t have a connection with Shin.”
Shin, Consort Rifa’s former head maid, was currently in her hometown. As she was officially dismissed on the grounds of a falling out with Consort Rifa, it was difficult to even investigate for detailed information. And above all, since it was also Consort Rifa’s birthplace, it was difficult to make a move at a moment’s notice.
“It seems this was the cause of the matter she raised.”
Gaoshun placed the thing Shin had finally handed over after visiting her several times over on the office desk. It was a piece of paper that had a great number of the names of perfume oil and spices written on it. Unexpectantly, Shin had known about the fact that several were ingredients that had an abortion effect. And it was said that she gathered these ingredients because of that.
Shin had denied that she had gathered them. It wasn’t known if that was true, but at least, seeing how she didn’t have a connection with the caravans, nothing could be said.
That they were able to investigate must be due to Consort Rifa’s cooperation. She was quite quick concerning abortion medicine. She had wished that such things wouldn’t appear in the inner palace hereafter.
Without considering that those appearing would be more advantageous for herself.
For that aspect, Gaoshun had thought it was favourable. That it is likely that if this kind of person became the mother of the country, the government would be even better.
On the other hand, he thought that she didn’t have the determination to just maintain that seat.
Even if she didn’t have to go as far as to beat down people, she needed to the strength to simply protect her own position.
For that point, it is possible to say that Consort Gyokuyou was more superior.
“Also, she didn’t have a connection with Consort Gyokuyou either.”
“Is that so.”
Jinshi said, raising his face
That’s a relief, it was a phrasing as if to add that.
Was it coincidence or certainty, that someone could have transported the ingredients for abortion medicine in the caravans? If it was certainty, they needed to thoroughly investigate the root cause.
It didn’t matter whether the victim was a high ranked consort or not.
In particular, Consort Gyokuyou was from a western trading city. It was valid to think she had a deeper connection than anyone else.
Once again, Jinshi started stamping with his face flat against the desk.
Stop that already, Gaoshun pressed down in the wrinkles on his brow.
As it cannot be helped, he decided to take out the wonder drug.
“Jinshi-sama, I got a notice of stock from the merchant who sold the grass that grew from insects from before.”
At Gaoshun’s words, Jinshi’s face snapped up. For Gaoshun, it was a face that seemed like an irresponsible child, but others would see it as a captivating face imbued with gloominess so it was troubling.
“It’s said it can only be found in a single ox among a thousand. It appears to be a stone found in the gallbladder. It’s called ‘bezoar’, a precious natural medicine.”
Jinshi’s eyes gradually sharpened.
“Is that true?”
“It is likely not a fake article. A physician with a good eye had looked over it for me. However, they said there was only one since it was an unusual item.”
Jinshi said like it was obvious.
Somehow, it seems his spirit rose.
He is a master that is easy to understand, yet also hard to comprehend.
“The merchant hasn’t set the price yet.”
Gaoshun said, and Jinshi slowly curved his lips.
“It should be cheaper compared to drinking wine throughout the night, served by the prostitutes in the best brothel in the capital.”
Gaoshun made a wry smile at Jinshi who asserted that simply.
“Certainly. I’ll prepare it. Also…”
I have to say this much, Gaoshun looked at Jinshi.
“Your line just then, I think it’s better you don’t say that in front of Shaomao.”
To say that as a reason, Don’t spend pointless tax, he informed him.