You don’t know what things are connected in this world.
It was unavoidable that Maomao was bothered about the white woman painted by the popular artist.
She looked so much like Lady Pai that she couldn’t be anyone else.
(Is my mind playing tricks on me? I want it to be my imagination.)
Lady Pai was pretty much already taken into custody. There was no need for Maomao to be hung up on her anymore after this.
Jinshi and his people had already done various things in regards to the locust issue. They also had hardy plants in the form of sweet potatoes.
It was about time for Maomao to not be worried about anything. It wouldn’t be strange for her to be working as an exceptionally normal pharmacist now either.
It was all the more mysterious that problems keep coming up for some reason.
The letter came not even ten days since the artist’s food poisoning incident, and it wasn’t even two months since she came back from the West.
“Come on. Take this.”
It was a cold Rokushoukan courtesan who had handed it to her.
Apparently, some messenger had come around while she was out shopping in town.
Though the identity of the sender wasn’t written, it was imbued with the scent of incense instead. Those who did that among Maomao’s acquaintances were limited.
As expected, Jinshi was the sender, but the contents of the letter couldn’t be regarded as refined at all.
“Consort Riishu is to be punished.”
For him to write something like this out of the blue, Maomao’s eyes could only widen in surprise.
The circumstances of the matter were as follows:
Consort Riishu had headed to the West. It had been to fulfil her duty as a consort, but she had left the inner palace for a prolonged period of time—this gave rise to various issues. She may have been kept under close observation, but to say it frankly, the moment she stepped out of the flower garden known as the inner palace, the chance of her mixing with seeds from elsewhere shoots up.
Thus, when Consort Riishu returned to the capital, she wasn’t able to return to the inner palace immediately. For a short while, the same ritual she did before she left needed to be performed—just to make sure.
Maidservants like Maomao could enter the inner palace relatively easily, only requiring the minimum etiquette and a check to see if they were pregnant.
For high ranking consorts, however, it was more bothersome. They not only need to perform some ritual, but also seclude themselves in a shrine in a way to freshly purify their bodies.
This takes around a month, so it should already be over by now.
Jinshi made an expression of exhaustion under his mask.
It was sweltering to be shut up inside the cramped pharmacy, so she got the madam to prepare a room for them again. Normally it would just be the two of them, but Basen was present in the corner of the room today. He was sitting stiffly with his usual sour-faced look.
(It’s kinda easy to do and hard to do.)
If she was alone with Jinshi, it’s troubling when he would try to touch her weirdly and strangely, but if there was someone watching, Maomao couldn’t easily sit however she liked.
Jinshi being Jinshi looked at Basen in annoyance, but the other man was sitting silently.
Was Basen watching them so Jinshi doesn’t do anything to Maomao?
No, or was it…?
It seems it had something to do with Jinshi’s words of “It’s troubling”.
“Her monthly cycle hasn’t come,” Jinshi said.
“I see,” Maomao replied.
It was said the reason Consort Riishu couldn’t return to the inner palace had to do with her late period.
Maomao understood it from the bottom of her heart.
The inner palace was made solely for the emperor. It was the goal of the flowers inside to bear fruit with the emperor.
Amid that, it will be a bit of a problem for a consort who had left the inner palace for a prolonged amount of time to have a late period.
“I don’t think Consort Riishu would ever be unfaithful,” Maomao said.
“I know that, but it’s just in case. At this rate, she’ll be held under suspicion. Even if that wasn’t the case, she won’t be able to return to the inner palace,” Jinshi replied.
When you consider the structure of the inner palace, the part where it is the high ranking consorts’ job to give birth to children is important. It may be unfeeling, but the consort’s duty wouldn’t be accomplished if it wasn’t the case—it’s that kind of place.
“She’s still young too. Isn’t it normally irregular at her age?” Maomao said.
“However, it hasn’t come for two months already,” Jinshi countered.
Maomao and Jinshi continued their discussion.
Basen cast his eyes down and was trembling for some reason.
“Since she seems to have bad blood circulation, can you treat it with medicine? If it doesn’t work, we can also include massages. It seems her bowel movement has gotten worse too.”
“Yeah, you know it well. That way is better, but the problem lies with the court physicians. There’s only one of that sort in the inner palace.”
“If that’s the case, I wonder if we can use my adoptive father.”
“That’s true. That would be the best option.”
For no particular reason, Basen looked up in the middle of the conversation. He was biting his lips and his face was flushed pure red. “J-Jinshi-sama.”
“What is it?” The beautiful noble, unperturbed, looked at Basen who was as red as a ground tomato.
“H-how, can you talk about such things with a straight face…?”
“Talk about what with a straight face?” Jinshi tilted his head in puzzlement.
Maomao understood what Basen was trying to say.
Jinshi had been working among women in the inner palace for a long time. In a certain meaning, she could understand that he needed to talk about things only privy to women.
“A normal gentleman, wouldn’t speak so boldly, about a woman’s monthly thing, ” Basen said.
“…Ah,” Jinshi said.
“I just saying it incidentally—” Maomao said.
Since he was talking so boldly about it in such detail…
(It’s kinda gross.)
What of it if he had somehow slipped his tongue? Certainly, it’s more helpful to know a bit than nothing at all, but it’s also troubling if he knew too much.
Since he wasn’t a court physician.
She couldn’t say that out so she shut her mouth, but Jinshi drew closer to Maomao.
“Oi, did you say something just now?” he asked.
“I didn’t say anything in particular.”
When Maomao turned her face away, Jinshi drew even closer.
“Don’t lie to me. What did you say?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Tell me honestly!”
He’s persistent. Maomao narrowed her eyes.
If he was asking this much, she would have no other choice than to say it.
And since he was so pointlessly close as he was asking her, Maomao’s expression also stiffened. She bent down to get away from Jinshi and he was now looking at her from higher above.
Thus, upon the piling of coincidences, it can be said that what Maomao said was an inevitable accident.
It was that, but…
“It’s gross,” she said.
Jinshi and Basen’s expression froze.
To say it again, it was an inevitable accident.
Maomao had no malice. It was just an accident since Jinshi was looking down on her, so she narrowed her eyes and uttered those words.
When she looked at the two men who became stone so brittle they could crumble with a push, Maomao wondered if she had done something again.
The next letter she got a few days later was from her adoptive father Ruomen. Looks like Jinshi had promptly made the arrangements to send Ruomen to Consort Riishu.
It appears that despite his hopelessly darkened expression when he went back the other day, he did his work properly.
The letter mentioned that Ruomen got Consort Riishu to drink medicine, but there was nothing else he could do beyond that.
Though the letter was only a summary, it seems the maids allowed him to do palpation since he was a former eunuch.
The maids mentioned here wasn’t the head maid but the other haughty maids.
(It’s better to bring it to a close as soon as possible.)
The check for her virginity was the quickest.
Consort Riishu shouldn’t have attended the emperor yet, so she should clear herself of the suspicion of infidelity at least if she proves her virginity.
However, when you consider the method to determine that, it didn’t matter if the one checking was a eunuch—there would be resistance.
There was also the means to ask for some midwife, but they were talking about Consort Riishu— she would faint.
For the time being, Consort Riishu’s irregular period should be due to exhaustion from her long journey, so it was believed that if she rested well and improved her blood circulation, she would be cured in no time.
That was what she thought.
It was another five day after when Consort Riishu was placed into house arrest.
It seems the medicine wasn’t useful and she remained irregular in the end. So it was pitiful that she got placed into house arrest for that, but speaking of how it turned out this way, the higher up have various thoughts, she thought.
However, there was a person who had run over, unable to accept it. A guest had come to Maomao’s pharmacy.
“I can’t accept it.”
It was Basen, mouth twisted and brows drawn together.
(It’s not like I don’t understand what he can’t accept.)
However, why was he at Maomao’s place? He’s absolutely interfering with her work.
“How did it turn out like this!”
Though he was complaining, he was glancing out the window of the pharmacy probably because he was afraid of Pairin-neechan. The man who still had his important thing – Basen, twenty-years-old.
“Even if you ask me about this,” she said.
“Why is Jinshi-sama also saying nothing in regards to her poor treatment?”
(Listen to me already.)
Maomao narrowed her eyes at Basen. She wondered if she could call the madam to assemble courtesans and give him some pseudo inner palace experience. It was vomit-inducing for Maomao who knew the inner palace so well to call it unpleasant, but apparently, for the wealthy who know nothing about it, it’s a paradise not unlike the Peach Blossom Spring. It seems the madam got carried away and passed it off by saying, “We’ll show you the techniques of an inner palace returner,” to cheat people of their money.
Of course, the inner palace returner in question was Maomao, but she hardly touched anything regarding that.
There was this one time…
“Isn’t it good?”
…where they had that exchange, but that was still easy-going.
In reality, as one who returned from the inner palace, the very first thing that came to her mind was the eunuchs. That had to be omitted in its entirety. If the point was to create a customer’s desire, the real thing didn’t matter.
Well then, returning to the conversation.
“Then, what does Basen-sama wish to do about it?”
“Wh-what, you say….?”
He suddenly trailed off. She would still understand if he was giving advice and words of support instead of saying you have to do whatever in a certain way, but it was meaningless if he was just grumbling about it without knowing what he wanted to do.
Maomao suddenly decided to speak of what she wanted to ask Basen now. “Is there a reason as to why Basen-sama is supporting Consort-Riishu?”
Maomao also knew the answer. But she took it upon herself to say it out. “It is because Basen-sama is Jinshi-sama’s retainer, that you are backing a specific consort for Jinshi-sama’s sake?”
She thought the incident where Consort Riishu got bestowed to Jinshi was stirred up by the U clan. Honestly, he wasn’t keen from the get-go, and he wouldn’t even think of marrying Consort Riishu after all this time either.
And yet, only Basen was thinking of Consort Riishu.
And that reason for that is:
Considering Basen’s birth and upbringing, he’s a naïve man where it’s possible to say it’s abnormal. It wouldn’t be strange for him to know one woman, and being a member of the elite, it had to have been taught to him as a part of his education.
(What is Gaoshun doing?)
Since he was supervising Jinshi all the time, was the discipline of his actual son sloppy? His personality seemed to one who believes something firmly once he makes up his mind, so it’s actually dangerous for him to delve into this too deeply.
Even though it’s dangerous.
(Moreover, it’s Consort Riishu, huh.)
It looked like a thorny path no matter what.
It’s better to play more carefreely. Should she do business? The courtesans of Rokushoukan are all good, how about that?
While knowing that it’s futile, Maomao could only warn him just in case. “It’s not really good to hold feelings to a specific consort. Are your actions based on that?”
“…I get it.” He made a slightly bitter expression and looked down.
One way, she could have him go back without her asking him. However, it’ll also be troubling if Jinshi came over to her place if something occurred as a result of that.
And so, she decided to just ask him about what was up. “So, what’s going to happen to Consort Riishu?”
“She’s going to move out of the capital to the villa in the north.”
“Outside the capital, you say?”
Let alone the inner palace, but even outside the imperial court, huh, Maomao thought.
If she were to leave the capital, no matter how it was glossed over, you would think that Consort Riishu had done something wrong.
“She will be moving out tomorrow,” Basen said.
“…are you even allowed to talk about this?” Maomao asked.
“Are you going to spill?”
She had no intentions of that, but she thought it was strange that he was speaking about highly classified information.
“Normally, I wouldn’t be talking about it.” It appears that Basen could discriminate that much. “As an unspoken agreement, Consort Riishu will move to the shrine of the villa. It was officially stated that it was for a ground-breaking ceremony.”
Officially – she was somewhat tripping over that word.
However, it wasn’t Maomao’s place to stick her head into any more than this.
“What?” Basen looked at Maomao stiffly.
“Who will be travelling with Consort Riishu when she is heading out?”
“…now that you mention it, I was told that the man called Rihaku or something who got appointed by Jinshi-sama to an important post will be coming along. Also, the people recommended by Tactician-dono.”
When she heard tactician, Maomao held herself back from contorting her face.
The man is like a large breed dog, but he’s skilled and his head isn’t bad either. A quick-witted man.
The monocle weirdo tactician as well. While he isn’t one at all, there shouldn’t be an issue on the side of personnel selection.
She was strangely tripping over it.
“And what about Basen-sama?” she asked.
“…unusually, me too,” he replied.
Maomao could only nod at this.
(Is there something up?)
In that case, what Maomao could do was…
She took out bandages and medicines from the shelf.
She put those all together and made a small pack. It was a simpler version of the first aid kit she normally carried in her bosom.
“If this won’t get in the way, take this,” she said.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s a kit to treat small injuries. There are painkillers and bandages and things. Also, for when you’re hungry, a number of sweets.”
“Am I a kid?”
Basen’s face twisted, but Maomao pushed it to him.
“They’re things that won’t get in the way, so take it.”
“…can’t be helped.” He reluctantly put it into his breast pocket.
It’s fine if he doesn’t really use it—though wasteful, they’re things that could be thrown away.
However, Maomao wanted to keep in mind what her intuition had just hit.
“I’ll leave Consort Riishu’s escorting to you,” she said.
“I know that much.”
Nothing was really resolved, but Basen went back for the time being.
Maomao sighed deeply. Was he unable to hold back from complaining to someone?
(He has troublesome subordinates, huh.)
As Maomao thought that, she cleared away the emptied teacup.