Red and white white-powder flowers bloom en masse. Some also have black, round beads that were dropped by the flowers.
Maomao went beyond it. A field of long grass extended out.
Ring, ring. She heard the bell-like sound of insects.
Maomao eased her way through the grass. There was the shadow of someone squatting in the centre of the field.
The girl, who was tall yet innocent, was catching insects and putting them inside the insect cage. She had put in one, two, three, when she finally noticed Maomao standing behind her.
“What is it? You want to gather them with me?” Shisui smiled in satisfaction as she showed her the insect cage.
Maomao shook her head, then slowly dipped her head. When she looked up and was about to speak, Shisui shook her head and pressed her index finger to her lips. “Can we stay like for a little longer? We’ve just become close.”
Shisui had garnered something Maomao’s attitude. A somewhat forlorn expression gave rise in her innocent smile. “I guess that can’t do.”
They heard a voice call calling for someone at a distance. The palace ladies were searching for “Consort Rouran”.
Shisui stood before Maomao and held out the insect cage.
A bell sound ensued.
“This insect, you know. When the female lays eggs, she eats the male. Yet they make such a pretty sound.” Lashes lowered, Shisui whispered into Maomao’s ear. “It’s as if, it is just like here.”
That wasn’t the innocent voice of a young girl. It was a woman’s voice that was slightly hoarse. And then—.
“Bad insects carry calamity. It’s up to the doctors to stop it.” Shisui passed by Maomao. When Maomao turned back, the innocent young girl was nowhere to be seen.
The dignified woman was surrounded by several maids. A stunning gown was draped over her shoulders. Rouge was applied to the make-up-indifferent lips, a huadian was pasted on her forehead.
When she put on the coronet that had the feather of a curious foreign bird, the palace lady Maomao recognised disappeared right there.
“Consort, let’s return in haste,” a maid said.
“I know.” The woman’s wooden voice left Maomao behind.
There was a clear wall.
A mere palace lady and a high ranking consort, if they aren’t master and servant, there is no point of connection.
And, Maomao and the consort wearing the feathered coronet had no point of connection.
As the long feather wavered in the wind, the consort and her entourage left.
Treating Maomao as though she wasn’t there.
And then, only the bell sound resounded in the insect cage.
‘Bad insects carry calamity.’
What was the thing that Shisui said at the end supposed to mean?
Maomao groaned as she polished the silverware. Were her hands to stop while she was groaning, the head maid Honnyan could turn up out of nowhere and scold her so her hands cannot stop. Lately, her fists that seem to hollow out were rapidly improving and came quite often.
(Bad insects and calamity?)
Was this some sort of metaphor? Or was the meaning as is?
Maomao could go either way for calamities and like. In this world, bad things happening could be due to anything.
However, speaking of doctors for calamities, that could also be said as a kind of disease.
(There are also diseases carried by insects.)
(Or she could be teasing me?)
It can be taken either way.
However, Maomao considered the young girl who is called Shisui. Regarding her, speaking of knowing nothing, she knew nothing. Speaking of knowing to a certain extent, she knew.
In other words, she had no idea.
While knowing nothing, night approached, and the emperor came. When she saw Consort Gyokuyou’s swelled abdomen, she made a complicated expression.
She heard that he had been diligently visiting Consort Rifa recently.
Maomao slurped the congee that was added with aromatic vinegar and glanced at the emperor.
He was looking at his daughter, Princess Rinrii, with affection.
Once, the emperor asked Maomao when Consort Gyokuyou wasn’t around. About whether there was a method to tell the sex of the child in the abdomen.
I don’t know. Maomao could only shake her head.
She recalled the emperor saying, “I see” as he lowered his gaze slightly.
With the two high ranking consorts having a child in their abdomen at the same time, when it becomes like this, the gender distinction and order of birth was important.
The first to be born will be Consort Gyokuyou’s child, however, the gender is unknown. If the child is female, what could become of it?
Honestly stating her impressions, it seems the emperor wanted Consort Gyokuyou to give birth to a boy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he is slighting Consort Rifa. It seems that between Consort Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa, more than the difference in favour, Consort Gyokuyou is more convenient to the emperor one way or other on the political side of things.
With Princess Rinrii on his knee, playing with her by blowing the pinwheel, he appears to be a good father, but he is a court official. For the noble ones, blood relatives are allies and enemies at the same time. Historically, the relatives of consorts – even if she gave birth to a son – whose fathers become a hindrance, get erased, are very many.
At least, regarding Consort Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa’s relatives, there is less of a concern, must be the emperor’s consideration.
(What a cunning old man.)
And he also goes to other consorts’ places.
Yesterday, he should have gone to Consort Rouran.
“What is it?” The movement of the spoon scooping the congee had stopped. Honnyan had asked her with a slightly dubious expression.
“No. It’s nothing.” Maomao placed the congee bowl down on the table and rinsed her mouth. And then she started on the next side dish.
Maomao worked as a food taster in the Jade Palace like this, but what about the Crystal Palace? She was concerned about whether the maids at Consort Rifa’s place have become decent.
Maomao glanced at Consort Gyokuyou, then closed her eyes.
This time, she thought of trying to ask even Gaoshun.
The next day, Gaoshun turned up alone; he had various previous arrangements with Honnyan. Jinshi seemed to be busy as he was working on something in the imperial court again.
According to Gaoshun, the palace ladies that had been newly assigned to Consort Rifa were a middle-aged woman who has passed her forties plus another three young palace ladies.
It seems she is the person who had educated Consort Rifa and her former head maid in the past – he said that they didn’t overlook that point.
Maomao somehow imagined Honnyan and Suiren together split into two, and put her hands together for the Crystal Palace maids.
“Leaving that aside, Shaomao,” Gaoshun said, the wrinkles of his brow creased more than usual.
Maomao had a somewhat unpleasant feeling and subconsciously knitted her brow as well.
“This is about Consort Rouran’s older sister,” he said.
Maomao gave a start.
“Do you know a girl like this?” Gaoshun took a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and spread it out for Maomao to see. The portrait drawn with fine lines had a face she had seen from somewhere before. Slender, neat features. Her height was five shaku six sun(Close to five foot six, ~170cm).
“…oh, hey,” Maomao said.
The woman looked like one of the court ladies who had charged at Maomao before. She was also tall.
She was pretty sure that she recalled that this court lady in Shishou’s troupe that she caught sight of in the time of the blue rose. “So this is the real Shisui.”
“Indeed, it seems she normally calls herself Suirei(翠苓, Cui Ling in Chinese. The same Sui as in Shisui.),” Gaoshun said.
As the child of a concubine, she must feel ashamed. To receive the single character in the name of an inferior, everyone around her might also be envious. If her half- younger sister became a high ranking consort, it must be all the more so.
(What a strange feeling.)
Shisui, no, Consort Rouran talked about her older sister very joyfully.
Regarding that, Maomao can’t see the real Shisui smiling. Only a bored and somewhat weary expression.
Does Shisui talk happily only to Consort Rouran? Or does Consort Rouran one-sidedly adore her? She had no idea.
“What is it about this person?”
Gaoshun glanced around at Maomao’s question. The room had no other maids; there was only one other attendant eunuch.
“Her mother was said to be a town girl. It seems she’s already dead….” Gaoshun mumbled. He seemed hesitant to tell Maomao for some reason.
(Was it better that I didn’t ask?)
While thinking that, her curiosity that started to expand stared at Gaoshun and demanded a response.
“The one who raised Shisui seemed to be a former court physician,” he answered.
“A former court physician?”
If so, she understood what Consort Rouran meant about her sister who knew a lot about medicine. Just like Maomao, she must have been trained in the knowledge of medicine.
If that’s the case, this raises a number of bad things.
“Indeed. The former seemed to be an outstanding court physician who even studied abroad in a foreign country.”
To have studied abroad in a foreign country, that was amazing. It reminded Maomao of her dad, Ruomen. Her dad also studied in the West for several years.
Unpleasant sweat gradually rose for some reason, but Gaoshun continued. “He incurred the empress’ wrath and was dismissed.”
“And then the one dismissed—”
“Ah, enough.” Maomao wanted to stuff her ears.
She was going to lose to her curiosity, but the scales tilted towards safety. I shouldn’t hear any more than this, Alarm bells rang inside Maomao.
“The reason he was dismissed was that he impregnated a palace lady in the inner palace.”
Gaoshun said it. He said it clearly.
She had rapidly stepped into a place of no return.
“Why didn’t they think it was a eunuch?” Gaoshun supposed.
“In the past, only court physicians were exempted from castration.” Gaoshun told her things she didn’t want to hear in succession. “From that incident, there became no exceptions.”
Taking responsibility, it was said the officer was deprived of his official rank.
And it was said that from then on, all the court physicians who entered were to be castrated.
(Considering the empress, the measure was too lenient.)
As unpleasant sweat dripped, Maomao arrived at that question.
Gaoshun immediately told her the answer. “The pregnant palace lady seemed to be a girl who had only just past ten years of age.”
It was a story that made her subconsciously want to spit. In this world, are lolicons common? Do those bastards really prefer the young to that extent? However, it was a troublesome thing even if the disease spread in the world that is full of unique tastes.
Maomao knew about one person who possessed the cannot-be-helped taste for little girls. Even now, the person remains in the gossip of the inner palace.
“The court physician’s reduction of penalty was requested from the previous emperor.”
“The child was taken in by the court physician and the palace lady remained in the inner palace.”
Maomao recalled something she was stuck on.
Wasn’t there a story that she heard before that sounded similar?
“The palace lady, in those times, was a maid that followed a high ranking consort.”
She knew what happened to that maid afterwards. She was shunned by the consort, unable to leave the inner palace, lived by just enjoying ghost stories, and then, died.
“The former high ranking consort is currently bestowed to Shishou.”
So, Consort Rouran is her daughter. And speaking of Shisui—.
(For argument’s sake, if Shisui’s mother is, if she is the child that was taken from the inner palace by the court physician.)
The previous emperor only had two children.
This undermined that assumption.
“Shaomao should understand what that means with me telling you this much.”
Maomao neither shook her head nor nod. She only stood in a daze.
Having disclosed the complicated family relation, Gaoshun made a look like he relieved some burden. As if to say, you are also an accomplice, with that.
Maomao reproachfully sent off Gaoshun who went back with a slightly cheerful demeanour.
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.