Volume 4, Chapter 21: Bewilderment and Confusion

The world is full of matters that don’t go well at all.

And when it gets into the heart, it doesn’t just not go well, but also twists, tangles and throws you into mayhem.

I should think of things more lightheartedly, straightforwardly, and simply, Maomao thought.

As she examined Basen’s tension-lined face.

Could the wrinkles on his brows be the deepest it has ever been? It surpassed his father Gaoshun’s – setting a new record.

Maomao sipped tea as she watched the sour-faced man. For dim sum, they had sesame balls – the outside was covered with sesame seeds and the inside had sesame paste filling. The sesame filling being not so sweet might have been a consideration for Basen, but Maomao was into this mild sweetness.

She took her second one, split it with a bamboo spoon, and ate it.

They were in the guestroom of Ah Duo’s villa.

Ah Duo quickly came to pick them up after that riot. Consort Riishu’s head maid had rushed towards the consort who must have been scared.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a consort who was pale from fear. Only a bothersome maiden of marriageable age who was wrapped up in a strange fantasy.

And that maiden of marriageable age was looking towards this man.

(Mhm.)

Maomao stared at Basen.

She heard that he was the same age as Jinshi, so he’s twenty huh. Unlike Jinshi, he looked his age.
His height should be around five shaku seven sun (170cm). He might be a little short for a military official, but it was possible that he might grow a little more.

His looks resembled Gaoshun, so it wasn’t bad, but he didn’t have enough of that overwhelming refinement. It would be better if he was a little more composed, but he exuded inexperience.
However, young people his age would generally be something like this, right? Maomao thought. Of course, when she considered the person he worked for, she knew that it wasn’t good enough with that, but-

The person himself wasn’t bad.
Considering that he was in the Ma Clan, he was bestowed a single character name.

And this skill from the martial arts she saw before was commendable. He defeated several armed opponents barehanded. That wasn’t something that was as simple as it looked.

To start with, people get scared.

A long time ago, a manservant had told her that by just having them wield a blade, you’ll falter from the fear of the possibility of getting stabbed.

However, Basen, who took them down without showing even an ounce of that, must have that much skill.

(It’s probably, from that.)

That he was assigned beside Jinshi.

She was mistaken in the thought that this man always a civil official type assistant. His current duty seemed to encompass that too, but frankly, it didn’t suit his character.

Despite the fact that it suited this man more to be thrown into the military.

(Unexpectantly, his personality might match someone like Rihaku.)

As she thought along those lines, her head was lifted up. “Mm?”

Maomao become somewhat awkward, looking at the sesame ball plate.

“What?” Basen said.

“No, it is okay if I take a sesame ball?” she asked.

“Suit yourself.”

Since there were five balls, it meant that Maomao will be eating one more. She was honestly full from eating two, but she somehow ate her third one.

Basen was moaning and groaning, looking outside as he sighed in a way unbefitting of him.

(What is with this atmosphere?)

I want to have anyone as a conversation partner at least, Maomao thought. That noisy brat would be fine too on this occasion.

When she thought about that, Ah Duo finally entered the guestroom.

The woman bowed deeply right after she came in.

“Wh-what are you doing!” Basen raised his head in a fluster.

From the look of things, although she is a former high ranked consort, Ah Duo still has power, Maomao thought.

Honestly, she had no idea who was higher ranked. She somehow grasped from the atmosphere that her side felt more important.

“Thank you very much for saving Consort Riishu.”

“I understand that. Please raise your hethh!”

(Ah, he fumbled.)

This doesn’t look good – Maomao looked at Ah Duo.

Ah Duo looked at Maomao and nodded as if she was permitting her to speak. She decided to talk.

“Why did you use Consort Riishu as bait?” Maomao asked, point-blank.

“How sharp.” Ah Duo smiled without it reaching her eyes, and slowly sat down in the chair.

Maomao knew that the woman was implying don’t stick your nose into it. She had considered how she could escape from that, but as a result, her discretion couldn’t get through to the woman.

Hence, she asked this question. “Is it okay for me to be here?”

At that, Ah Duo grinned and grabbed her hand.

It was like she was saying – Don’t run away.

There had been something suspicious about it from the start.

Even if she had obtained the emperor’s permission, a high ranked consort has left the inner palace.

Moreover, aside from going out to the streets, the consort had spoken to Maomao who was originally an outsider.

And Consort Riishu was practically assaulted in the back alleys. Furthermore, she only had two guards with her. And let alone Ah Duo, even the consort’s head maid wasn’t by her side.

If that was not abnormal, then what else should Maomao call it?

“Consort Riishu’s life was targeted on that street.”

Since Ah Duo going to pour herself some tea, Maomao reached for it first, snatched away the teapot and poured tea for her. Perhaps it was due to Honnyan having worked her hard at the Jade Palace, she acted naturally.

“I don’t know who it is. I just decided to take drastic measures to eliminate the consort’s unease,” Ah Duo said.

“Is that so? Drastic measures, is it?”

Maomao heard a reply that sounded like a criticism somewhere, so she covered her own mouth in reflex. No, she was wrong. The voice wasn’t from Maomao. It was Basen.

The wrinkles on his brow were in the midst of setting a new record. There were two new lines.

“So that’s why you treated the delicate and dainty consort like bait?” he said.

(Delicate and dainty…)

Certainly, Consort Riishu was delicate. Beyond delicate, her appearance was charming so there are no problems with calling her dainty.

However, those words had come from that Basen’s mouth.

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From the man who has kept asking Maomao about whether Consort Riishu was suitable to be the main wife or not. That man.

Delicate aside, isn’t it a little out of place to say dainty?

Moreover.

“Aren’t the guards who were with her at that place newcomers who only came in last year?” Basen said.

“Ohh, there were acquaintances huh.” Ah Duo laughed in amusement.

“They were unsuitable to be the consort’s guards. And furthermore.” Basen paused as though he was hesitating, and continued. “Shouldn’t you be coming out earlier if she was guarded to that extent? Then what was that supposed to mean?”

Maomao widened her eyes at Basen’s words.

“Oh, you noticed it huh.”

Ah Duo nodded as she stroked her chin. Her actions reminded Maomao of the emperor in some respects. Was the resemblance somehow because they have lived the longest together as husband and wife?

(So in other words, they had been watching while in hiding?)

Maomao didn’t notice at all. On the contrary, those guards and thugs probably hadn’t noticed either.

“Isn’t it somehow too reckless to bring it to light in this manner?” Basen said tersely.
He was speaking while paying respect to Ah Duo.

(Mhm, plus one point.)

Maomao wilfully evaluated Basen. Currently, he was in a delicate situation with sixty points out of a hundred.

“At that rate, I might reach out for the consort,” he said.

At his words, Ah Duo jolted in surprise.

Unfortunately, Basen didn’t have the character for detail to the point of reading her reaction. Even if he continued to speak like that, Ah Duo would continue to evade him, so it was a fail.

(Minus two points.)

As she muttered that in her head, she decided to lend him a bit of a hand.

Maomao raised her hand slightly. Ah Duo nodded.

“May I ask one question?” Maomao asked.

“What?”

“Just who is targeting Consort Riishu?”

First, it was that question.

Honestly, she would still understand if Empress Gyokuyou or Consort Rifa was being targeted. However, there was no reason to target Consort Riishu who the emperor has not even visited.

“….”

No, wait.

Rather, wouldn’t you be aiming for her life because of that?

Even if he still had a scar on his cheek, that lord’s beauty didn’t wane. Rather, didn’t it cultivate a fresh layer of wildness to him?

As if she read Maomao’s speculation, Ah Duo laughed. “Haha. It’s because Zui(瑞, rui.) is popular.”

(Zui?)

Who is that? She tilted her head, when Basen nudged her with his elbow.

“That’s Jinshi-sama,” he told her.

I see, Maomao clapped her hands. Speaking of that, that was an alias, but honestly, she never called him by his real name, so she didn’t remember.

“He isn’t just popular in this country.” Ah Duo said and took out a folded sheet of paper from her collar. She unfolded the paper that had been folded four times. It was a map.

With this country, Rii, at the centre, there was the island country of the east, vassal states scattered around the four directions, then the countries further north and west. If you go further west from that, it would connect to the country that her dad had studied abroad in.

“There are countries that really want to be friendly with us. Moreover, there were talks of having that country’s woman as his wife,” she explained.

“…and then, what about Consort Riishu?” Maomao asked.

“Yeah, when we declined, we said that it would be better to have a suitable partner. It was just the right time.”

(….)

What is with the speed of this?

Then what was the various things said about the matter about consummation up until a couple of days ago – Maomao tilted her head.

It’s fine if the switchover was fast, but honestly, Maomao couldn’t follow. Could it be that there’s already an alternative – it might have been decided after that.

“And then, have you already told the matter to the other party?” Maomao asked.

“No, not yet. Though they could have already heard,” Ah Duo replied.

(A spy?)

It seems she had purposely let them go.
What a scary lady, Maomao thought.

“However, isn’t the timing too short for them to aim for her life?” Basen asked.

Maomao also sensed what Basen had said.
And even if Consort Riishu disappeared, honestly, they can probably choose another partner at their own discretion. Above all, it would be better if it’s the emperor or the crown prince, but the partner was the imperial brother. Considering the point in favour of going that far, she could only think that they would have charmed by Jinshi.

(It can’t be.)

It’s a different thing if they saw the actual person, but that couldn’t be, Maomao thought.

“…that’s why,” Ah Duo said slowly in a deep voice. “This proposal was from Consort Riishu.”

Consort Riishu is a pitiful consort.

Her mother passed away when she was young, and her father married a second wife soon after. It was said that the second wife was originally her father’s concubine, and there was already a half-sibling.

Her original parents were second cousins. Her father entered her mother’s family, the main family of the U Clan.

Though the family structure resembled the Shi Clan, the difference was in the way they treated Consort Riishu, the daughter of the legal wife.

“It seems they doted on the daughter of the second wife more than the daughter of the legal wife. Apparently, they said that they will have the half-sister enter the inner palace this time.”

“What is that supposed to mean!” With enough vigour to knock the table, Basen stood up. “Isn’t the consort too pitiful?”

(Nonono.)

Even Maomao thought that she generally spoke everything about Consort Riishu. That it seems belated that the others said that they want to put the half-sister into the inner palace – that subject.

About why he would be angry about it this time.

Maomao felt a second unpleasant premonition.

However, it would be greatly troublesome to notice that, and moreover, she would be wrapped up in it, so she wanted to ignore it.

For now, let’s leave this incident aside and return to the topic.

“Whether she’s pitiful or what, if you say that, can’t you say the same about the countless flowers in the inner palace? The words of one of the former flowers, Ah Duo, was laden with emotion.

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Since they won’t progress if Basen continues to speak, Maomao decided to add to the conversation.

“How does that connect with the incident where the consort was bait?” she asked.

“Yeah, about that.” Ah Duo lowered her gaze a little melancholically.

And then….

“She suggested that her life might be targeted by her father,” Ah Duo professed with a cynical look.

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