Volume 6, Chapter 14: Secret Manoeuvres

Dad returned after they shared some gossip following En’en’s story. When Maomao thought that she could hear a shrill cry, there was Honnyan with the crown prince in her arms and Imperial Princess Rinrii by her side.

“He’s the picture of health,” he said.

“That’s a relief.” Empress Gyokuyou looked genuinely relieved from Dad’s report. The baby seemed to have grown his teeth—there was the flash of white when he opened his mouth.

“There are several points of concern about baby food,” Dad explained before Honnyan and the empress. In accordance with people’s constitution, there are things that they must take and things they cannot. Babies must not eat honey, and there are also cases where the body can break out in rashes from things like fish and wheat.

“When you introduce new foods, please feed it to him separately and in small quantities.”

This was so they would know the exact cause of strange changes to the body when they introduce several types of food.

(Since this is the imperial prince.)

Commoners, particularly the poor that live in the slums, don’t even have the freedom to pay attention to such a thing as they don’t even have food in the first place.
Yao and En’en were listening intently to Dad’s words. And while he was at it, the quack doctor was also noting it down.

“Will the crown prince be fine for his next debut?” Empress Gyokuyou asked anxiously.

Debut—if she remembered properly, Rahan had mentioned it. He said that it would become a grand ceremony with even foreign emissaries showing up.

“Honestly, I don’t recommend having him in an unfamiliar place for long periods of time. Infants tire out in unfamiliar environments.”

He might cry during moments where they must be silent, and they would have to change his nappy. He could also get hungry.

Around two years ago, they had brought Imperial Princess Rinrii along to the garden party, but it had also been tough then. They had to make sure she didn’t catch a cold and kept her warm by placing warmed stones in her basket, so she didn’t get chilled.

This time, they would probably be outside for longer.

“Shorten the time as much as you can, and I’ll also sound him out,” Dad said.

“I’ll be in your care.”

The empress’ prudence was linked with who else will be there along with the crown prince this time. Of the emperor’s children, there was Imperial Princess Rinrii, the crown prince, and then Consort Rifa’s son. Consort Rifa’s son also possessed the right to succession.

Maomao wouldn’t think Consort Rifa would do anything unjust, but people could manipulate power in places the person herself had no hand in.

There was a palace lady who had tried to poison another consort in the past for their beloved consort. She had moved in places her master was unaware of and then failed.

If there are people who think of making Consort Rifa the mother of the nation, the current crown prince would probably be in the way for them. They might think that it would be better if he was gone.

It was dangerous in many ways.

(Speaking of danger…)

She hadn’t met up with Jinshi recently, but how was he?

(He’s also in the line of succession.)

After the crown prince. Normally, a baby wouldn’t be immediately made the crown prince—instead, they would wait and see for a bit longer—but Jinshi was absolutely uninterested in the position of the next emperor. On the contrary, he, who was rejoicing over the birth of the crown prince, had even wished to step down into a retainer.

However, the one who decides that probably won’t be Jinshi alone.

(I wonder what will come of that.)

Maomao thought as she looked at the crown prince’s hand that resembled red leaves.

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〇●〇

The humid atmosphere was gross. His hair clung onto his neck.

Paperwork was miserable in the rainy season. Jinshi swept his hair away from the back of his neck and sat at his desk. He flipped the documents. One section of the characters was blotted as if someone had touched it with sweaty hands. He sighed deeply and picked up the cup that had been set on the edge of the table. It contained brewed tea.

“….” Jinshi swirled the teacup. “When was this tea placed here?” he asked the civil official who was in the same office. Gaoshun wasn’t here today. He returned to his original job as Basen was healed of his injuries and reinstated. He had hired someone who was skilled in document organisation as a substitute.

“Yes. A court lady brought it over when you left your seat just now.”

Even Jinshi was human. He would feel the need for a bathroom break at least. However, to have it happen in that short amount of time, and moreover to have it brought over by a palace lady…

There were always guards installed at the entrance of the office, but they must have moved with Jinshi at their own discretion.

Court ladies were essentially barred from entering Jinshi’s office. The time he was a eunuch, he had chanced upon a scene where court ladies had fought it out to decide who will be delivering the tea to Jinshi. Moreover, he also got hair and fingernails in his teacakes as a curse, and when he would find himself alone with one, she would suddenly strip and force herself on him—they were all nothing but troublesome.

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The substitute civil official didn’t seem to know about Jinshi’s circumstances despite his skill in document organisation.

Jinshi pulled out a drawer at his desk. He took out a cloth pouch. Wrapped carefully inside it, was a silver spoon. He picked it up with the cloth and stirred the tea.

The gleaming silver spoon darkened.

The civil official watched it happen with an ashen face. Jinshi had purposely shown to it him to sound his reaction.
Apparently, he was truly unaware.

Jinshi passed the spoon in his hand to the guard at the entrance. The guard wrapped the spoon in the cloth and put it into his breast pocket without a change in expression. His shift-change was coming soon. He was probably passing it over after that.

“What kind of court lady came by?” Jinshi asked.

“Th-that.”

It was a mess. Young. Not very tall. He didn’t provide useful information. As expected of an over-diligent civil officer, he was probably so engrossed in sorting documents that he didn’t see the court lady properly. And incidentally, there was also tea on the civil official’s desk. He had drunk around half.

Jinshi, with no other choice, took out another spoon and stirred it. The spoon gave no reaction to this tea. “No problem.”

The civil official looked a little relieved, but withered as if to say, “Oh no.”

Jinshi had no intentions of telling him what to do. He just wanted him to sort documents without incident. In addition to his passable diligence, the part where he didn’t give Jinshi strange looks was a strong point of this civil official. Jinshi wanted him to perform his job properly during his fill-in time.

“Don’t worry about it and continue working please.” Jinshi left the poisoned tea on the edge of his table and went back to his paperwork.

Although the civil official’s face was stark white, he returned to his desk.

Jinshi gave a deep sigh in a way the civil official wouldn’t notice and continued to sort the documents.

- my thoughts:
Funny after all that we only get awarded with a glimpse of Jinshi.... And as usual, poor Jinshi. I wonder who tried to poison him this time.
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