Volume 3, Chapter 27: Bell Cricket

Maomao sighed as she prepared supper. A newcomer maid who was nearby watched her. Maomao still wasn’t that close to the newly entered maids. Since Maomao went out often and didn’t talk to them herself, it can’t be helped though.

Even the other maid, perhaps she was alone and felt out of place to mingle with a stranger, didn’t try to talk that much.

(It’s fine though.)

Leaving that aside, Maomao’s head was full of other matters. Why did that worldly-wise attendant, again, talk to Maomao about such a bothersome thing?

(I don’t plan on telling others though.)

Even so, wasn’t it better to not reveal the information for a while longer?
Could there be some reason for it?

While thinking of such things, the supper was delivered from the kitchen. Maomao arranged the utensils that had been prepared for it.

Amid that, Maomao noticed a certain thing.

She picked up something that looked like a root with a pair of chopsticks.

At a glance, Maomao doubted the thing that looked like burdock root and placed it on a small dish.

“What are you doing?”

The new maid doubtfully looked at Maomao who was breaking apart something on the small dish. Maomao put the broken up pieces of the root into her mouth and then spat it out.

“…Can you call Honnyan-sama?”

That wasn’t burdock root. That was ground cherry root.

 

 

 

“I also feel that it’s after all this time.”

Maomao said as she looked at the contents of the dish.

“It certainly is after all this time.”

Honnyan said, her lashes lowered.

Ground cherry is also used as an abortion drug. In the early stages of pregnancy, it can cause miscarriages, but now, even if Consort Gyokuyou ate it, she didn’t think there would be that much of an effect.
Consort Gyokuyou’s pregnancy was spread in the inner palace was a tacit understanding of not being spread publicly. Consort Rifa’s pregnancy was also spread to this extent.

If it goes well like this, Consort Gyokuyou should give birth in around a month. Even Consort Rifa should have a couple of months after this.

Even if they targeted either of them, she can’t help feeling it strange that they added in poison after all this time. If they targeted them earlier aside.

However, to have actually mixed it in.

Maomao scratched her head like she was going to scratch it off, but Honnyan was right before her so she bore with it. Consort Gyokuyou wasn’t around. She must be considering the pregnant consort, but it was that consort’s matter. She must have got some inkling of it.

Honnyan stared at Maomao who was worrying endlessly.

“You have something you’re concerned about?”

“….”

No. It would be a lie if she said that.

“If I remember correctly, even the suppers are made in the kitchen together with the other consort’s.”

She enquired to make sure.
Honnyan affirmed it.

“As a way to soak in the flavour, aren’t other consort’s meals are mixed as well?”

“You got that situation from eating it huh.”

Honnyan said, appearing shocked.

Isn’t it that you don’t understand if you don’t’ eat it, Maomao thought. At any rate, it was good that there was more incentive if she ate it.

(I wonder what it could be.)

Maomao pondered.
There was something she was strangely stuck on.

What was it, the first thing she was stuck on?
She felt something connected somewhere.

(Just what happened with that?)

Speaking of abortion drugs, there was that incident.

The caravans came and sold a multitude of abortion drug ingredients there.
That was what Consort Rifa’s head maid purchased and tried to make abortion medicine. She made it for Consort Rifa.
The reason she, who was distant from the knowledge of medicine, tried to make it was because she found a scrap of paper that had the ingredients written on it by chance.
Also, she didn’t know the original owner of the scrap of paper.

Was the former head maid covering up for another person?

(No.)

How could that be? Would that haughty person ever go that far? Otherwise, was she harassed by the government officials who did her hearing?

(There’s even the possibility of relatives.)

In that case, it wouldn’t be consistent if the other person was Consort Rifa. Honestly, that head maid would think it was difficult to acquire the emperor’s favour. If so, wouldn’t Consort Rifa who had the same relation take precedence?

(What if she really had picked it up?)

It would become that there is such an insolent fellow in the inner palace.

Otherwise, the story of the scrap of paper might be a lie from the start. However, Maomao didn’t think it was like that.

(They specifically wrote all the ingredients that were hard to gather.)

There were methods to make abortion medicines that were closer.
Whether white-powder flower or ground cherry.

(!?)

Where was the place she saw white-powder flowers recently?
And who was the other person who was there?

Did she have some objective?

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“Maomao, what is it?”

From Honnyan calling out to her, she grasped her unsettled thought.

“No, it’s nothing.”

She still hasn’t reached a conclusion. It wasn’t good to speak about conjectures.

But, if Maomao didn’t move here, a more wretched thing might occur.

(Bad insects carry calamity.)

She didn’t understand what kind of meaning that had.
However, it wasn’t that she understood even if she stood at a standstill here.

Maomao stared at Honnyan.

“Honnyan-sama.”

“What is it?”

Seeing Maomao’s expression, Honnyan returned a dubious face.
Maomao made a momentary grim face and said what she needed to say.

“I have a request. Is it alright if I return to being Jinshi-sama’s maid?”

“!?”

Honnyan slapped the table. With a clatter, the dish on it momentarily hovered in the air.

“What are you talking about all of a sudden!”

At the expected response, Maomao gave a small sigh.

“Don’t you know that from here on is a critical period of Gyokuyou-sama!”

Her expectation had a leeway of about another month. However, this was an estimation, there might be the chance of a premature birth.

If the consort gave birth in the inner palace, it was undependable with just the quack doctor. She wouldn’t be relieved unless there was a more experienced and capable court physician around.

However, Maomao replied to Honnyan, expressionlessly.

“I am a doctor. I have witnessed childbirth before, but I have not taken it up. Rather, more than me who has half-baked knowledge, would it be better to prepare someone who has greater expertise in it?”

In saying that, Maomao wrote characters on the table with her finger.

“In the pleasure district, there is a eunuch who is a former court physician. If it is him, he has plenty of experience in child delivery.”

“….”

“He was once banished from the inner palace, but he should be more dependable than the current court physician.”

Sorry, quack doctor, Maomao said as she apologised in her head.

“Even if we don’t directly tell the emperor, Jinshi-sama can try let it pass.”

“…to have been banished from the inner palace, doesn’t that make him a criminal?”

Honnyan looked at Maomao with cold eyes.
She understood. Everyone must have that kind of reaction.
Since that was common knowledge.

“He is a criminal, but his skill is certain. Besides, if you’re particular about this, I won’t be able to be here either.”

Maomao raised the corner of her lips.

“I was brought up by this criminal.”

It’s bargaining, she thought.
Supposing, if she was prejudiced against her dad the criminal, Maomao was his daughter. It would become that the daughter of a criminal won’t be able to become a food taster of a consort.

Even before, Honnyan had something up, Maomao recalled. That time, she felt that she was done in well by the other, but this time it wasn’t the case.

Honnyan’s mouth was pressed into a へ shape

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Honnyan was a capable head maid. On her scales, is what side would be beneficial or what for the consort, her master.

“…What about food tasting? Right now there is that ingredient mixed in here, right?”

“This isn’t targeting Consort Gyokuyou.”

“…Then, Consort Rifa?”

Maomao shook her head.

If it is like this, she would go by the process of elimination. Excluding Consort Riishu who still wasn’t chosen, there was only one other high ranked consort.

(What a thing.)

Maomao remembered the insect cage that she put in her room.
Inside it was insects that made bell-like sounds with their wings.

She recalled that ghost story. What kind of story did the girl who had still assumed the name Shisui tell? It was the story where bell crickets appeared. It ate something else instead of the monk. Just what did the ayakashi eat?

Among insects, there were those who also ate the males after reproducing. Maomao, who saw praying mantis eating each other, first thought it was gross.

However, it was also the same here.
If she gives birth to a child of an influential person, at times, the woman would become adverse to her father.
So she could provide power to her child, at times, she could erase her father.

Same as insects.

(Bad insects come carrying calamity,)

The words that were repeated many times were repeated once again.

Is it something like this? Maomao sighed.

The girl who loved insects had no interest in power. She probably wanted to just carefreely pretend to be a maidservant.

While making sure that a child does not settle in her abdomen.

They didn’t really socialise for long. It was no more than them just having silly talk once in a while.

Maomao didn’t really mean to stick her head into this, but even so, she couldn’t just not do anything.

“For Consort Gyokuyou’s healthy child. I will be food tasting outside as well.”

Maomao searched for a solution that only she could do.

“…I get it.”

“Thank you very much.”

When she relayed her small thanks to Honnyan who only said that short phrase, Maomao picked up the contents of the dish before her eyes and put it into her mouth.

Right away, she was struck by Honnyan. It goes without saying that she was forced to spit it out.

 

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