Apparently, external court physicians, which was primarily her dad, would enter the inner palace once every ten days. He would visit high ranking consorts once a month, and middle and low ranking ones once every three months.
It appeared that he also went to Empress Gyokuyou’s place, but court ladies still weren’t allowed yet. It seems that their coming was to be determined based on their reactions at the inner palace.
After that, whether it be low ranking consorts or low ranking palace ladies, if the emperor were to visit them, it was customary for them to get a health check within half a month. But then, the current emperor wouldn’t carelessly lay his hand on maidservants. If he were to put his hand carelessly, some seed would come in from someplace. They would have to be trying to avoid that possibility.
(They said that I’m an accomplice.)
The gist of it was that if the puzzle was a ploy for Airin to drag Maomao and others over individually, it would mean that they would be transgressing by not reporting to the authorities. That sort of meaning.
And so, En’en was currently right next to Maomao. They were washing bandages with their tubs set side by side. They had prepared soapberry peel, so the filth comes out from the bandages cleanly.
After they washed the bandages, they would boil them once. There are cases where human blood has toxins, and when you bathe in the blood or lick it, you can get an infection.
“Isn’t washing a maidservant’s job?” Maomao asked.
“I never said such a thing,” En’en replied.
The one who had said that were the court ladies who had been forced to quit. It unintentionally became a disagreeable topic.
“Where’s Yao-san?” Maomao asked.
It was strange to not use honorifics, and also strange to use sama, so for the time being, she called her this way, but it didn’t seem fitting.
“Yao-sama was asked by Court Physician Shuu(周, Zhou) to go out with him to buy medicine.”
(Court Physician Shuu…)
Who’s that, Maomao tilted her head. It was a bad habit, but she had yet to match names with faces. Even so, the way En’en had said it was also bad. As there were only dozens of surnames in this country, the name Shuu was as common as a pebble on the ground. There should be three or four even among the court physicians and court physician apprentices.
Maomao wrung the washed bandages. And then, she also placed En’en’s bandages into her own tub. “Leave the rest to me, so please work on something else.”
However, En’en curled her lips. Maomao was also expressionless, so she wouldn’t say that the other person was arrogant, but it was a forced smile no matter how one looked at it. She snatched away half of Maomao’s tub of bandages.
“We should share each other’s lot.”
In other words, don’t you dare go report it when I take my eyes off you.
From the baked pastry incident, it seemed the two of them, Yao and En’en were clinging more closely to Maomao.
Maybe it was a blessing, since Yao aside, Maomao was talking more to En’en. In the beginning, the other court lady didn’t overtly charge at Maomao. She was expressionless and silent. It was probably the same reason she didn’t talk to Maomao, as Yao was around.
(It’s a bother to chat.)
Her personality was probably really similar to Maomao. Her unfriendliness and outstanding points were really similar to Suirei, but she was also somewhat hard to grasp.
“Please don’t mind Yao-sama’s attitude. She was supposed to be the top scorer, but you took that spot,” En’en said.
“Didn’t you hear the explanation? The one who earns the highest score in the exam will be given a different accessory cord to the other successful applicants.”
“Ahhh.” Maomao recalled that only hers was deeper in colour. She had left all her clothes and so on to Gaoshun, and yet when the clothes were brought over, she had been worked hard by the madam, so there wasn’t much.
(I didn’t hear about it.)
She was sorry about that.
However, she had thought that she barely passed the exam. Turns out it wasn’t the case.
“The general education was another matter, the specialised knowledge was the part I would do well in even if half got taken out,” Maomao said.
The general education. Was that the history and poetry that Maomao had reluctantly studied? She tried hard for that, she tried really hard.
The specialised knowledge. That was Maomao’s field of expertise, so there was no examinee who could beat her results. She understood.
“Yao-sama said that she got all the questions in general education correct, so she probably lost to you in the specialised knowledge section.”
“Was that how it is?” Maomao felt slightly regretful that she could have slacked a bit more while studying. Either way, with the point in the time where the madam had been bribed, there was no way she could have escaped from studying for the exam.
“I worked as a pharmacist.”
“Yes, I somehow got that. But, it’s Yao-sama who still finds it vexing.”
It was not that Maomao didn’t understand. She didn’t hate that kind of personality. It was way better than having the court lady act abjectly towards her. But, the issues was how Maomao didn’t know how everyone around them would react to seeing the woman’s behaviour. Among the court ladies who passed, the one with the best parentage was Yao, so the other court ladies would have no choice but to follow.
“She’s not a bad person, so please forgive her for the time being.”
On the other hand, En’en gave quite a mature response. Maomao didn’t hear her age, but was she around the same age as her? Yao looked mature, but she had heard that when she was chatting that she was three years younger.
(She’s sixteen, so it can’t be helped.)
She might get angry if Maomao said that she’s still a child.
However, there was one question that remained.
The court lady called En’en. Maomao knew her to be Yao’s attendant, but she seemed quite smart. Moreover, she also understood bits of the western language that even Yao didn’t know.
“May I ask a question?” Maomao asked.
“What is it?”
“If I’m not there, what if you became the top scorer?”
At Maomao’s question, En’en gave another doll-like smile. She moved to stand in front of the stove and put the bandages in the pot. “That would never happen.”
It was an issue to cheat to raise your marks, but it wouldn’t be dishonest to dare to give incorrect answers to what you know.
So it was something like that.
(She’s a capable woman that is different to Suirei in a different meaning.)
Rather than Suirei, she was similar to the maid who is Jinshi’s nursemaid, Suiren. She had a polite bearing, but you can’t be negligent.
Speaking of what…
She’s a cunning person.
Outside of being observed by the two court ladies, it was a normal ten days for Maomao.
But she was a little troubled that every time a letter arrived, they would inspect it. It was a relief that there were no direct letters from Jinshi. For the most part, it came under Gaoshun’s name. What happened next was of no matter, it seemed Basen had already returned to work. Considering how his injuries had been grievous, he had a resilience that could also be seen as abnormal.
(Is his body somehow structured differently?)
During that, she ended up thinking about wanting to try to compare wound healing with other people. He seemed sturdy, so it shouldn’t be an issue even if he were to get treated somewhat roughly. The person himself would seem to reject it, so shall she sound out Gaoshun?
The pharmacy was doing well—that came from Sazen. However, he wrote that Kokuyou would occasionally be noisy. He had to bear with that.
Occasionally slipped into the letters were the drawings of a cat, maomao, but that was Chou’u. There was a paw print carefully pressed onto the paper instead of a seal. It looked like there were scratch marks, so he must have forced it.
Yao studied the cat drawing intently, saying that she was inspecting. After just looking at it, she reluctantly passed it back to Maomao. Afterwards, En’en asked if she could give her the cat drawing, so she was probably giving it to Yao.
Yao and En’en seem to see the ‘white maiden’ as a mere secret code. En’en looked a little caught up on it, but if Yao didn’t worry about it, she had no plans of interfering with it deeply.
(A white maiden, huh.)
Eight-nine chances out of ten, it was about Lady Pai, she thought, but perhaps there was also another possibility.
The one thing Maomao was curious about was the food poisoned artist that she had saved last time. There was a painting of a white beauty with red eyes in his house. She was told that it was a woman the artist had seen a long time ago, that he had met in the lands of the west.
If that was the woman Airin, a native of Sha’ou, was talking about…
No, Airin had purposely given out the solution to the riddle. Maomao shook her head—it indeed was about Lady Pai.
However, she was still caught up on the fact about the white woman the artist had met.
(Could they be connected somehow?)
When she knew the answer to that question, was the day after when she met Airin again.