Housekeeper of the Hundred Blossom Palace - Chapter 4
Before she proceeded with her work, Yui Mei went back to the place where trash was left lying around.
A lot of time would be wasted if cleaning was not done efficiently, so she decided to prepare some items beforehand.
“Can I have the things here?”
“Sure, we’ll just burn them anyway.”
Yui Mei asked permission from a court lady resting nearby.
This was the garbage dumping site, apparently.Yui Mei took a bamboo pole and a worn-out old cloth, and returned to her work place.She stepped on the tip of the pole to create a small crack, and she inserted the worn cloth in it.
“Alright, this will do.”
She fashioned a make-shift, long, cleaning duster for hard-to-reach cobwebs and dust on the ceiling. Of course, there must be tools for such purposes, but she doubted whether the ‘supervisor’ woman would hand those over, and she would be wasting time if she were to look for it. As long as it did the job, it would be fine.
She must also take note of two other things. First, she should be careful not to contaminate the place she already cleaned. Second, she should not touch those dirty things to avoid infection.
And so, Yui Mei took out the two pieces of cloth she brought beforehand. She used one as a hood to keep her hair back. She tied the other one to her face as a mask, so she could avoid inhaling dust and sneezing.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t do much as a countermeasure against infection, since there were no rubber gloves in this world. She could only wash her hands properly after she was done.
She wanted to look for alcohol or antiseptics later on.
After finishing her get-up, it was finally time to start cleaning. She started doing the hallway, since she was not sure whether she was permitted to enter the room.
Basically, cleaning should be done from top to bottom.
She used the make-shift duster to reach the ceiling. She then swept the floor with the broom after. Next was scrubbing and wiping. She wiped the pillars, balustrades, and even the glass windows. She was so preoccupied with cleaning that she did not notice the sun was setting.
“Oh no, I’ll miss my dinner!”
Yui Mei hurriedly tidied the cleaning paraphernalia, and prepared to go home.
She was really grateful that the mister bought them fried manju before they entered the Inner Palace.
Otherwise, she would not have the strength to do her job because of her empty stomach.
One would get hungry when doing physically demanding jobs, so workers who did heavy labor usually ate between meals, somewhat like having lunch.
A lady, accompanied by a maid, came just as Yui Mei was on her way to return with the tools under her arm.
The lady was not gorgeous, but she exuded an air of tranquility. She was wearing silken robes. Yui Mei surmised that she must be the owner of the residence, so she hastily bowed her head.
“Well, it has become lovely.”
“Finally, they must have sent one of the cleaning staff.”
The maid said that in a relieved tone as the lady admired the surroundings. Apparently, Yui Mei’s job got a passing mark. Yui Mei did a tiny fist pump with her head still bowed.
Technically speaking, however, it was far from finished.
Yui Mei raised her head for a bit and reported.
“Pardon me, this one did not know whether permission was granted to enter the residence, so the interior is not cleaned yet.”
She did not want the lady to feel disappointed after entering, so she recounted that she was only done with the hallways that are visible from the outside.
She suddenly noticed that she forgot to remove her hood and mask as she was speaking. Her muffled words must have been difficult to understand. She hurriedly removed them to show her face.
‘That was dangerous. They might think I’m some suspicious guy.’
The face behind the mask was surprisingly young, so the lady and her maid were both surprised.
“Did you clean here all by yourself?”
The lady asked while blinking her eyes in amazement.
It was as if she tacitly implied that it should have been the work of a few people. Naturally, the emperor and his imperial wives and concubines did not clean their residences personally, but it was possible that she witnessed some cleaning activities so she knew.
“There was no one else but me.”
Yui Mei answered honestly.
“It must have been hard on you.”
The lady answered sympathetically, so Yui Mei couldn’t help but be inwardly surprised. Normally, concubines were chosen among maidens coming from well-to-do families. Those pampered ladies would know nothing about the hardships of cleaning.
However, the lady standing before her expressed that she had an inkling about those difficulties.
‘Maybe she was a former court lady.’
It was a plausible story, since Yui Mei’s mother had been one. Yui Mei suddenly felt a sense of kinship after ruminating about it.
“Alright, please clean the interior tomorrow.”
The maid said while Yui Mei was getting arbitrarily hyped up at her self-perceived intimacy with the lady. Yui Mei would have loved to do as she said, but she was uncertain whether she would have a choice on her assignment.
“… I will ask my supervisor.”
Yui Mei gave that answer for the meantime. In order to make it on time for dinner, Yui Mei briskly trotted back, with her cleaning tools clattering in her arms. She made it in good time, and a delicious aroma wafted from the kitchen.
“But where should I put these cleaning tools?”
The supervisor-like woman strode towards her; she probably caught sight of Yui Mei earlier when she was looking for another court lady to consult.
“Are you done cleaning?”
Contrary to the woman’s attentive tone, her expression betrayed her inner thoughts. It was as if Yui Mei did nothing worth mentioning before coming back. Yui Mei looked straight at the woman and answered.
“Yes, I’ve finished cleaning outside the residence, and I also received a request to clean the interior tomorrow.”
The woman muttered under her breath while frowning when she heard Yui Mei’s report.
“Why didn’t you clean inside?”
The woman asked accusingly, so Yui Mei thought it would be best if she didn’t say she ran out of time. Regardless, even if she had enough time, she still wouldn’t be able to enter the residence on her own.
“I wasn’t given permission to enter, and there was nobody around to ask.”
The woman wrinkled her nose upon hearing Yui Mei’s response. It must be her mannerism.
“How insolent, even though you’re just a country bumpkin.”
The woman spun around and grumbled over her shoulder as she strode away. It looked like the woman did not have any intentions of explaining, so she deliberately withheld information. She must have planned to frame Yui Mei for stealing, had she entered on her own.
It was the typical bullying trope used in Chinese dramas.
‘What a pain in the neck.’
Yui Mei sighed, and went to ask another court lady where the tools were kept.