Housekeeper of the Hundred Blossom Palace - Chapter 1
Chan Yui Mei lived alone in a remote village near the desert. This young girl of sixteen had two secrets.
One was that she retained her memories from her past life.
Yui Mei lived in a country called Japan prior to her rebirth.
She had no recollection of her name, but she did remember that she was a former registered nurse. After she retired, she spent her remaining years in the pursuit of her hobbies. She passed away peacefully, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
Her so-called hobbies were Chinese dramas. South Korean dramas were not yet in trend, and Chinese dramas were all the rage at that time. As a result, she was thoroughly obsessed.
She even went to China with her friends to attend fan events; not just once but multiple times at that.
After her reincarnation, she was perplexed as to why her memories of the past life remained. She then noticed, amidst her confusion, that she was reborn into another world closely resembling Ancient China.
She arrived at several conclusions as to where she might be, such as being reborn into a Chinese drama, or maybe a time slip, or perhaps reincarnating into a fictional universe that is similar to Ancient China.
Despite her speculations, it was also beyond her wildest dreams that she’ll be experiencing that fictional universe first hand.
Yui Mei was born in a remote region of an empire called Sai. The empire’s capital was called Kyou.
By the way, her village was a nameless one, and people refer to it as the borderland village.
She lived in a dilapidated shack located at the outskirts of the village. She relied on the crops of the barren field in front of her home, and in the blessings found in the mountains to fill her stomach and get her through the days.
Aside from her memories, she also possessed another secret – that she might be the illegitimate daughter of the emperor of Sai.
It was said that her late mother was a concubine in the imperial harem.
Her mother became the emperor’s maid, and later on, she gave birth to his child. However, because of her lowly status, she became the target of jealousy and envy.
Hearsay about the father of her child spread like wildfire. It was said that the child was not sired by the emperor, but by some other man that she brought into the palace. Eventually, Yui Mei’s mother was driven out from the inner palace due to these rumors.
A woman did not have a choice but to spend her life in the nunnery after being ousted from the imperial harem.
She brought her child with her, but the poor mother succumbed to depression, and thus took her own life.
Yui Mei was raised in the nunnery until she turned seven; by then, she learned about her own story through the gossiping nuns.
However, Yui Mei was skeptical about the credibility of those stories, seeing as there was no evidence to support them.
The nuns gave Yui Mei a choice as soon as she turned seven. Apparently, it was the standard age to choose a profession. She was told that she can stay and become a nun, or else leave the nunnery and live on her own. Yui Mei promptly chose the latter.
During this time, Yui Mei thought it would be a waste if she were to spend the rest of her life confined in such a small world. Since she reincarnated into an Ancient China type of world, she might as well make the most of it.
Frankly speaking, the owner of the nunnery was surprised at the turn of events. The possibility that children raised in the nunnery might yearn for the outside world never crossed his mind.
He assiduously tried to persuade Yui Mei that the world was such a horrendous place to live in, but Yui Mei stood her ground.
Despite her firm decision, she thought that the lord was a fair person, since he still gave her the choice.
It was then decided that Yui Mei would then live in her present dilapidated shack through the arrangements of the nunnery. And so, with complicated feelings, Yui Mei came to live in this remote village, where everyone knew each other since birth, with betrothals decided early on.
In this kind of society, Yui Mei’s existence was such that nobody spared any effort in proposing marriage, not even as flattery.
It was no wonder, since she had never met her father since birth, her mother passed away, and she did not have a penny to her name.
Moreover, her appearance was not attractive enough. Her beauty was mediocre at best, and her figure lacked womanly charm. She only had her sky-blue eyes—a rarity in this region—as well as her gorgeous hair as her praiseworthy features. Her black hair was tinged with a shade of midnight blue; it was a marvelous sight, indeed.
She was also secretly delighted with it, and it was her pride, but it was meaningless in the face of those feminine beauties.
And so, Yui Mei was living solitarily, while maidens her age were preoccupied with choosing their marriage partners. Maybe it was for this reason that the village chief decided to call upon her one day.
“Yui Mei, do you want to go to the capital?”
Yui Mei listened to the story with a raised brow. According to the government official who arrived that morning, the capital was recruiting maidens to participate in the selection of court ladies for the inner palace.
Their village must also send at least one maiden, since a total of ten girls were required from the villages around this area.
“Well, how about it? Would you like to go to the capital Yui Mei? I know it has been hard on you, since you are living here all alone.”
The village chief said that while grinning ear to ear.
The court ladies of the inner palace attended to the needs of the emperor and the imperial harem.
They had to do various duties such as cooking, laundry and cleaning. There was also a possibility that they would serve the emperor.
Once they entered the inner palace, they generally wouldn’t be able to leave. with only a few exceptions.
They could only leave when the emperor bestowed them on his retainers, or when they entered the nunnery (as was the case with her mother), or when they died.
In other words, there was a huge probability that the woman’s whole life would be tied to the palace.
A court lady could also be promoted, and there was also a slim chance that someday, she might even reach the pinnacle by becoming the empress, but that was mostly just a pipe dream.
Therefore, it did not come as a surprise that parents would rather have their daughters marry someone near than send them to the palace, unless the household was poverty-stricken and destitute.
’Well, I do understand, though.’
It was only natural that they would eye Yui Mei, who was not betrothed to anyone and had nothing to worry about the matter of becoming a court lady.
The capital people also followed the same reasoning as this village. Thus, regardless of their great population, candidates cannot be selected from the capital alone. If numerous ladies were selected from the capital, the number of males would outweigh that of the females, resulting in the decline of birth rate.
It will then affect the future of the empire, since revenue would also decline.
And so, it was decided that the court-lady selection will involve the whole nation uniformly.
Similarly, there was also a period in Ancient China when the court lady selection was held as a means of abducting beautiful ladies; later on, it was banned due to the harmful repercussions.
‘Regardless, what kind of lecherous emperor is he that he would go so far as to recruit women from remote villages?’
Yui Mei was sorely disappointed in the emperor, though he was her father (possibly).
The gist of the village chief’s story was that they did not wish to send their maidens, and they were diplomatically getting rid of Yui Mei, who was an outsider living alone in the outskirts of the village.
Considering Yui Mei’s background, one might say that the palace was a place that she probably would want to avoid at all costs. As to why, it was only natural, since it was the place that drove her mother out.
Although Yui Mei’s mother was a concubine, she also had the status of a beauty*—or so they said.
A beauty had the lowest status among the empress and the imperial wives. Moreover, she originally entered the palace as a court lady. She was only favored because of her hair, which caught the eye of the emperor despite her plainness. By the way, Yui Mei’s hair color was inherited from her mother.
Apparently, she was promoted since she gave birth to the emperor’s child. And it also became the reason why she, a person with no connections, drew the ire and envy of the consorts above her.
Indeed, the place called inner palace was hell swirling with the grudges and hatred of women.
Nevertheless, it was also a fact that Yui Mei was somewhat interested. The inner palace was a world that she obsessively stared at on the computer screen in her previous world, after all.
Aside from that interest, she also planned to leave this remote area sooner or later.
“I understand. I’ll go.”
“Is that so!? You really agree!”
The village chief raised his hands in happiness upon hearing Yui Mei’s decision.
‘There’s no way someone as plain as me will be able to make a splash in the inner palace, right?.’
Yui Mei thought optimistically. She already lost against her desire to see a real life imperial harem.
However, she completely forgot that her mother became a concubine despite her mediocre appearance, all because of her hair.
T/L Notes: * Aside from the normal context of appearance, beauty (美人) also referred to the concubines with the lowest status in the imperial harem (for this story, anyway. Maybe it was inspired from the Song Dynasty, since beauties have higher ranks in other dynasties.)
Hi everyone, Hanazakura here ☺ Hope you like what you read so far, and hope to see you in the next chapter of Housekeeper of Hundred Blossom Palace! ☺
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