When the bare branches were spouting buds, a meek-faced messenger showed up.
(Something bothersome again?)
Maomao accepted the message apathetically and noticed that it wasn’t from the usual gorgeous noble. No, there’s no mistaking they are a gorgeous noble though…
“Is it Ah Duo-sama?”
It was from the former high ranked consort.
As she wondered what was up, the carriage rocked up to the outer court rather than Ah Duo’s villa. The palace of the outer court was situated on the border of the inner court that enclosed the inner palace.
Maomao swung her legs like a child atop a chair, still wondering what this could be about.
There were military officials at the entrance of the spacious room. She thought they were military officials, but she recognised those officials from the inner palace before. In other words, they were eunuchs.
If they were outside the inner palace, it would be normal to use military officials.
Her question was quickly answered.
“Thanks for waiting.”
Speaking like a man, the person who entered the room was Ah Duo. It was Ah Duo with her figure tall and slender, clad in barbarian robes. Then, Maomao could see a small shadow hiding behind her.
“Ah Duo-sama, and….”
It was Consort Riishu, on the verge of tears.
“This time is special. I was planning to borrow the flower of the inner palace for a short while.”
Ah Duo declared with the bearing of a dignified actor.
And so, together with Consort Riishu who was specially allowed to go out, Maomao was at Ah Duo’s villa. Maomao was overawed by the atmosphere of the tea party that started in the gazebo.
(This aroma would have to be rose tea.)
The tea was made from roses – the aroma and taste were both bittersweet. Though it was called a rose tea, it seems the red colouring wasn’t from roses but a red flower from the southern countries. It beautified skin and was also good for health, but at any rate, that flower was rare so it was a product that even Maomao hadn’t drunk outside the inner palace.
(The older sisters might like it.)
I wonder if she can give me some later – it was her usual thought.
However, she also thought the rare high-class item was a little out of place here.
“Ah–, that’s mine—”
“I don’t care. I took it first so it’s mine—“
Laughing rowdily around them, were the children who lived in the villa. They were different to the survivors of the Shi Clan, it seems the whimsical owner of the villa looks after orphans. The Shi Clan children were nowhere to be found, and Suirei wasn’t around either, so they were probably somewhere else. Consort Riishu wouldn’t have known, but just in case, it was better that she doesn’t meet them.
And so, even the high-class tea was treated as paint to stain the tablecloth. The powder from the baked sweet that had been served on the plates was scattered all over the table.
Since they were picking up the sweets with muddy hands, Consort Riishu, who had a good upbringing, was completely taken back. Ah Duo chided them with a slightly troubled expression.
(These guys, won’t they listen after you hit them?)
Unfortunately, while disguising as a man was a strong point of Ah Duo, her disposition seemed to be gentle, so she probably wouldn’t accept Maomao’s education by fists.
The one who was more out of place here than the child-hating Maomao was Consort Riishuu. She was quivering like a small animal as she was being surrounded by children smaller than her.
“Come on, play over there.”
Ah Duo finally said. The maidservants pulled the children’s hands.
Ah Duo and Consort Riishu. The two had known each other for a long time.
However, why did Ah Duo take Consort Riishu out of the inner palace like this? And called Maomao as well?
Speaking of that reason–.
“I heard that you opened an inner palace class before. Can you hold one now for this child?”
In response to Maomao’s amazed reply, Consort Riishu trembled like a baby mouse.
Consort Riishu is sixteen this year. Even if the emperor didn’t crook his index finger, it was the age where she must attend to him.
Amongst the four high ranked consorts, Rouran was gone. Consort, no, Empress Gyokuyou and Consort Rifa had each recently given birth to imperial princes. Even if it was like this, Consort Riishu must accompany the emperor in the bedroom. The emperor’s position would also have to be bad.
It was about whether or not her heart is in it.
Hm, Maomao nodded. Since it’s Ah Duo, she must have properly gotten the emperor’s permission. That was because, rather than the fact that she was a former high ranked consort, she was thinking about Consort Riishu’s matter.
However, on the other hand, she noticed that the former consort was producing needless complications.
Gloomy regret was also mixed within the fear-filled eyes of the trembling Consort Riishu.
Unfortunately, Ah Duo hadn’t noticed that.
(Ah, oh boy.)
Maomao won’t talk about other people’s matters, but Ah Duo would have to be that kind of person. It was likely that since she, as a person, was biased to the allocation of ability*, she was the type who couldn’t recognise the emotion she should have recognised.
And so, the first thing Maomao, who was watching cooly as the third party, said was….
“In that case, can I be alone with Consort Riishu?”
At Maomao’s words, Consort Riishu trembled. Ah Duo nodded eagerly, “Sure thing”.
After Ah Duo left, Maomao sighed as she looked at Consort Riishu.
Consort Riishu’s eyes were glazed over.
“The other consorts have given birth. I have to do so too.”
“It can’t be helped with the seat of the empress. I just really have to quickly give birth to a boy now.”
Children are weak. You don’t know when they might die.
“Give birth as soon as possible. Why else did I come into the inner palace?”
As if she didn’t want to listen to Maomao’s speech, Consort Riishu covered her ears. However, she would have heard it.
It wasn’t that unusual for virgins to be scared of men. Maomao knew that very well, having always been in the shop that traded where that was an added value. Girls get sold to brothels before their coming of age in order to be brought up there, and in exchange for beautiful clothes and meals, they take up guests. Courtesans who took their first guest are given a first class meat dish to eat the day after. Even the miserly madam had that much kindness.
There was nothing to criticise about Riishu’s partner. Despite the age difference, her partner is the emperor. A great man with a beautiful beard. There was the point where he was somewhat overenergetic at night, but he shouldn’t force her.
However, on the reason where Consort Riishu was afraid of her first night with the emperor, Maomao also grasped that there was more to the fact that the consort was that kind of bothersome virgin.
How many people have noticed?
The emperor had probably also noticed it, she thought. That’s exactly why he had delayed it until now.
And one other important person hadn’t noticed that and was currently right in the middle of meddling.
Maomao sat down and sipped the already cold tea.
“If Ah Duo-sama is like a mother, then his majesty would have to be someone that’s like a father, right?”
Her words might be taken as disrespect, but there was only Maomao and Consort Riishu here.
She heard that Consort Riishu’s mother had already passed away. Her father only thought his daughter as a tool of politics and had put her into the inner palace when she was young.
At that time, it was no doubt that the Ah Duo, the crown prince’s consort, was Consort Riishu’s mental support.
Consort Riishu’s lips and brows were twisted. She was about to cry even now. Despite that, she somehow sniffed and looked at Maomao.
“…I, really…. wasn’t supposed to return to the inner palace.”
Consort Riishu strung her words together.
The father of the daughter who got put in a nunnery after the passing of the previous emperor had tried to use her again. From that start, she was supposed to have been sent away as a wife to the viceroy of the south, but that man was old enough to be her grandfather, and furthermore, it was said that though he lacked a wife, he was a pervert surrounded by ten concubines.
Consort Riishu is from a family lineage that had a name bestowed from the imperial family, the U(卯, Mao.) Clan. However, it was said that the power of their merit-based name was weakened in the era of the Empress. Therefore, no matter what hand they used to try to promote themselves, it was the common consensus that their clan was beginning to go under.
“The people who stopped that was Ah Duo-sama and his majesty.”
It was rumoured that Ah Duo, who had heard about Consort Riishu’s engagement, had requested it to the emperor. Considering it now, she guessed that might have also been the policy. As their betrothal was nearly finalised, they will need a suitable reason to overturn it.
(It’s no wonder.)
When compared to the other high ranked consorts, Consort Riishu will lose. Although she would say that she will lose to them, she didn’t mean the consort’s looks. She thought that her intelligence and spirit as a high-rank consort was lacking.
Will you have a maiden of tender years become the bride to some damned geezer, or have her attain the tranquil years even if it is just for a few years as a flower of the inner palace?
Ah Duo’s choice would have to be the latter.
“A long time ago, the emperor sat me on his knee and cuddled me, you know.”
That was fine when she was young, but if he did that now, the owner of the flimsy heart would have ceased breathing just like that.
Hm, in this society, there are many marriages with age differences. It was a different matter if the woman is older, but it wasn’t that unusual to have an older man. If they were asked the child on his back, “Is that your daughter?” there would be cases where they reply with “No, she’s my wife.”
In that kind of meaning, Ah Duo seemed to have thought that Consort Riishu would grow up after a few years. Like how she said it just then, if she became a wife of the gentleman who stood at the summit of the country, her treatment had no way of being bad.
(This is rough.)
Ah Duo’s plan was off.
Consort Riishu was still a child. And within the reason for her wanting to be a child, there was Ah Duo.
Ah Duo wasn’t a high ranked consort now, but she must still be someone who is by the side of his majesty though not in the company of Consort Riishu.
“I understand you can’t see it apart, but it’s your job.”
Everyone in the inner palace received a salary. Consorts were the same.
However, Consort Riishu tugged her dress and her eyes moistened.
If he were to take such a consort as a partner, she would be inclined to think that it would be tough for the emperor. Though not to the point of Consort Riishu, the emperor who had delayed sleeping with her must also have the same sentiments.
At least, it would be better if Ah Duo noticed her feelings…
What can I do, Maomao clutched her head.