Big shots claim that while banquets are something you want to enjoy in a carefree manner, it won’t turn out that way.
There’s a massive, long table occupying the centre of the room, lined by seats on either side. This is connected to a large table at the end, where his imperial majesty, the empress, Jinshi, as well as the guest—the priestess—will be seated.
The rest of the crowd was arranged symmetrically along both ends of the long table, with the arrangement identical to that of the garden party previously. If there was anything different, would it be the people sitting at the back of the room?
Maomao stood by the wall with an expression of “Can we end this quickly?” She looked around; food tasters, as over the top as they are, accompanied every important person—his imperial majesty, the guest, the empress, and others.
(This guy probably doesn’t need one.)
Wanting to spit out a keh, Maomao regarded the eccentric’s back. Barring that medium build, slightly hunched back, and slanted eyes bearing a monocle, he was a man of conspicuous and unconventional talent. The guy known as this country’s tactician.
For the most part, the title of tactician was in name only. Apparently, his rank was originally captain, but Maomao had no idea what that even meant. It was just that as far as she could see from his seating, he was most likely quite a big shot.
(If you want a food taster, you’re better off not coming at all.)
The people around the weirdo tactician wore similar expressions. This useless old man is bothersome once he starts poking his nose into the affairs of those around him in his free time. The fact that he didn’t get complaints whenever he took a day off from events like the garden party or whatever, was probably because he’d be in the way if he did go.。
Without delay, the weirdo, seemingly free, started to chat with the man seated next to him, who looked to be a military official.
As Maomao watched with narrowed eyes, she yanked the cloth in her hands. The fabric, twisted into a long rope, was tied to the weirdo’s ankle at the other end. Every time she yanked, the weirdo would jolt. Afterwards, he would look back, make a somewhat satisfied expression, and straighten his back.
It was quite distasteful for him to look at her each time, but it couldn’t be helped. The miser Rahan had included his supervision on top of the food tasting post. Of course, she was in no mood to go along with him, but Dad had also entreated her. She was promised unusual imported medicine for next time as well, so she agreed. And so, like a cat that moves without ringing its own bell, she had tied a cord to the weirdo.
She sensed strange looks from those around them, but as it was normally this weirdo who got such looks, no one would say anything, so she decided to go along without paying attention to it.
Although it’s called a banquet, dining doesn’t begin right away—there were several introductions to be made. It was different to the outdoor garden party; there was no showy opening like a sword dance, but it was nice to hear pleasant-sounding music. Was the slight exotic air brimming from it an attempt to imitate Sha’ou music?
As if he had no interest in the music, the tactician took out a Go book from his breast pocket and started to read, so she tugged the cord again. She had absolutely no idea why his imperial majesty did not sentence this man to death by hanging.
The important looking people discussed matters importantly, and when conversations ceased, the dining began. Behind Jinshi stood En’en. Normally, his nanny Suiren would have wanted to come along, but many close attendants were young. Even the robust nanny will read the atmosphere in times like these and leave it to En’en.
(Seems like she got a nice promotion.)
This didn’t seem to be the case for the person in question. However, En’en kept glancing to the side, the reason being, like how Jinshi had En’en accompany him, the Sha’ou Priestess also had Yao with her. Yao’s complexion was a little poor, as though she was nervous.
En’en’s hollow, zombie-like demeanour from this morning had gained a little more life. However, it didn’t seem like she was free from her milady deficiency yet—she looked around, complaining with her eyes for the banquet to end quickly. She seemed worried about Yao’s terrible complexion.
Although they were painstakingly trained as court ladies who assisted court physicians, how everyone became food tasters in the end was a source of amusement for Maomao. Even though food tasting is usually left to the surplus of lower ranking people instead. Yao appeared to be a young lady with a good background, but the fact that her parents hadn’t stopped her was a little worrying.
(I taught her how to taste for poison though.)
It’s called food tasting, but when someone fails, they fail. It could be a new poison, or it could be a delayed onset type.
(In the end, people die when they die.)
Such was the case. But Maomao decided if she was going to die anyway, she wanted to die from a new type of poison. Would it be too ambitious of her to want to check for its toxicity before passing away?
As she entertained such thoughts, the meals were carried over.
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As usual, she wanted to carry out the food tasting and end it quickly.
So Maomao thought as she accepted a small plate used for food tasting and glued her eyes on the weirdo tactician as she ate.
Once the meals began, the banquet ended. There would be a feast after this—Maomao, who didn’t know the difference between a banquet and a feast, could only sigh.
It seems there will be fewer people at the feast and the location will be changed. Yao and En’en had more work following this, but Maomao was done here, so she planned on leaving the room. Just as she was throwing away the tactician’s cord like a cat that doesn’t ring its own bell…
There was a thud. When she turned back to see what happened, a court lady had collapsed. When she wondered who it was, it was Yao.
“Milady!” En’en flew over. She tried to rouse Yao to see what had happened.
Maomao threw away the cord and approached the two. Yao was lying face down. There was vomit strewn all over the floor.
The court ladies in the vicinity screamed. It was as though they were shrieking, How rude of you to throw up in a place with big shots around, but that wasn’t the issue.
Maomao slapped En’en’s cheeks. The latter was shaking Yao.
“Check if there’s anything still lodged in her throat. If her airways are blocked, she could suffocate.”
“…yes.” En’en was frantic, but as Maomao had instructed, she stuck her fingers inside Yao’s mouth. Yao seemed to be breathing, but she was trembling and clutching her stomach. Her pupils were dilated.
(The fact that Yao had collapsed means…)
How was the priestess? As Maomao turned to look, the priestess was already surrounded. The food taster alongside Yao also had tremors and a pale face. She was moving away while holding her hand over her mouth; the priestess was also distancing herself.
(The priestess had been served poison.)
Maomao had Yao put on an outer garment. As En’en kept calling “Milady, Milady,” with a pale face, Maomao thought about what she needed to do.
“Water, salt water, and…”
With unknown poisons, the first priority is to clear the contents of the stomach. To force a heave, she pulled En’en away and thrust her fingers into Yao’s mouth, just as an elderly man with a bad leg approached her.
“Maomao. Switch with me.”
Dad was here. He was carrying a pitcher and a bucket. He also had a blanket, which he laid over Yao’s waist. With abdominal pain and vomiting, there was also a high chance of diarrhoea. Even if it’s involuntary, it’s prudent to not draw attention to it.
“The priestess should be prioritised, right? Leave this to me,” Dad said, picking up the cord Maomao threw away and pulling. The one who reacted by standing up in a daze was the weirdo tactician.
“Can you bring some charcoal over? If possible, crush it into powder in a mortar. Also, prepare a room. It’s for this child, the priestess and the other food taster. You can do that, right, Rakan?”
“Yeah, Uncle. I’ll prepare it immediately.”
It was the weirdo who answered, but the ones who sprung into action were the subordinates around him. Rather than due to Dad’s direct order, they hurried in response to the weirdo’s reply.
“Dad, I’ll leave Yao to you.” That was all Maomao said, before heading off to where the priestess and the other food taster were taken.
She entered the room that had been urgently prepared for the priestess and the other food taster.
The priestess and the other food taster kept vomiting. They had to be given salt water to flush out their stomachs. She also gave them powdered charcoal and a laxative. It was foul-tasting, but they needed it to clear out their systems.
As long as Dad couldn’t examine the priestess, it was solely Maomao’s responsibility to check her condition. She had them expel everything from their stomachs and excrete everything from their bowels. If the laxative was deemed ineffective, she was going to induce diarrhoea by administering liquid medicine through their anus. Both the priestess and the food taster seemed averse to it, so they were relieved when the laxative worked.
The condition of the two seemed milder compared to Yao’s, so they remained conscious despite being poisoned.
Speaking of Yao, she was in quite a critical state, so En’en was nursing Yao without being mindful of her current master, Jinshi. As Jinshi wasn’t a monster either, he didn’t try to take her away.
However, the day after the banquet, when the priestess’ condition stabilised a little, he turned up at Maomao’s place. His appearance was plainer than usual, but the sparkles remained. Beside him was Basen, who had been reinstated.
Maomao was wearing the same clothes from yesterday and hadn’t yet taken a bath, but on this occasion, she didn’t have the luxury to consider it rude.
“How is the priestess doing?” Jinshi asked.
“She’s stable. Her symptoms weren’t as bad as Yao’s, the food taster girl,” she answered.
A court physician had given Maomao a detailed report on Yao’s condition. Maomao also spoke to the court physician about the priestess’ condition in detail. If anything were to happen, it would cause international problems. It must not be allowed to get any worse.
Jinshi’s personal visit was probably also concerning that.
“This Yao you mentioned, I’m told she’s En’en’s master,” he said.
“You seem to favour En’en a lot, but it’s about time you sent her back. She’s turned into a corpse from Yao deficiency.”
Amidst all that, with Yao’s condition being what it is, she’s probably on edge. Maomao joked a little, as if she had calmed down somewhat.
“With your colleague in this kind of predicament, aren’t you worried?” he asked.
“I’m not so heartless as to not worry. It’s simply that my current task is to examine the priestess. Besides, Yao is with my foster father.”
As long as Yao was with Dad, Maomao believed things will turn out fine. En’en* (again, another typo by the author) also dabbled in medicine. If she collected herself, she’d be able to nurse properly. Therefore Maomao had no need to throw away her work to go to her.
Above all, due to the serious nature of the priestess’ presence, it may develop into a national problem. That outcome is the one thing that must be avoided.
“…by the way, do you know who the culprit is? The one who served the priestess poison?” She was told that aside from the priestess’s attendants, no one else had been poisoned.
Even if they saved the priestess, the fact that her life had been targeted hasn’t changed. In that case, they must locate the culprit post haste and deliver punishment to avoid causing a dispute.
Jinshi wore an indescribable expression. Then, he glanced at Basen. Basen also had a complicated expression as he took out a pouch from his breast pocket. As she wondered what was inside, a small bottle was revealed. With the cap removed, powder could be seen inside.
Maomao gave a sniff. It was a smell she had come across before. Very recently, at that….
“!?” Remembering, she unconsciously stretched out for the bottle, but Basen had covered it with the cloth pouch.
“Looks like you know something.”
“…is this incense powder?” she asked.
Incense powder—a kind of incense made from plants. It was made from a plant known as shikimi (樒, Japanese Star Anise). With its high toxicity, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea are among its symptoms.
“I heard from Court Physician Kan that it’s toxic,” Jinshi asked.
“Yes. It matches their symptoms perfectly,” Maomao said.
The poisoning symptoms manifest a few hours after ingestion.
“This incense…” Jinshi looked at Maomao meekly. “Consort Airiin had been carrying it.”
(I knew it….)
Maomao had brought mosquito repellent to Airin’s place before the banquet. It was the exact same smell as that time.