Published at 21st of July 2019 04:03:25 PM

Chapter 119

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I Won’t Accept Her as Your Concubine or Maid (3)

Minglan tried her best to bite back the curses she would like to have uttered and calm herself down before she said, “Cousin Jinxiu, I know you have suffered a lot, but you are not the most pitiful person in the world. Although you once had an unlucky marriage, your parents love you and they did everything they could to bring you back to the capital. How could you have the thought of killing yourself? Have you ever wondered what kind of life your sisters live? They are illegal daughters. When Uncle Cao was rich and powerful, they couldn't enjoy life to the full but you did. After your father was found guilty, they had to bear the same misery as you did. Now they are left as those men's concubines in Liang Prefecture. Without any relatives around them, when they meet with difficulties, they have no one to turn to. To tell the truth, I think they are more pitiable than you. As for the orphans and widows in Xiaoliangshan, they are much more miserable. Do you think so?”

Cao Jinxiu blushed with shame because every word Minglan said hit the nail on the head. She stole a glance at He Hongwen and felt uneasy. Madam Cao wasn’t kind to her illegal children and He Hongwen had often seen her ill-treating them when he was a child. As expected, He Hongwen put on a look of disapproval.

“We ran out of money. My parents had no way to keep them... Both of my father and mother feel guilty… But fortunately, my sisters’ husbands are all good men,” Cao Jinxiu stammered. Then she knelt down before Minglan again, trembling slightly and crying, "Lady Sheng, Old Madam He and my aunt often praise you for your kind heart. I know that you often show mercy to the poor and give them money. You can regard me as a beggar by the roadside, just have pity on me. I won’t compete with you. To be honest, I have no capability to compete with you. I just want to see Cousin Hongwen often…”

“No way!” Minglan slowly shook her head and replied in a firm tone. He Hongwen and Cao Jinxiu were both stunned because they didn't expect Minglan to refuse flatly.

Minglan fixed her eyes on Cao Jinxiu and said in a cold voice, “Lady Cao, have you ever seen anyone who's willing to give all its property to beggars?” Minglan turned to He Hongwen and stressed each word as she said, “For a woman, her husband is all she has. No woman will share her husband with other women even if she pities them.”

While saying that Minglan looked at He Hongwen with firm, sincere eyes. Overwhelmed with joy, the young man blushed and had no idea what to do next. Cao Jinxiu paled, her lips trembling as she said, “… But… I just want to…”

Minglan waved her hand and interrupted, “Cousin Jinxiu, don't kid yourself. You are not an ordinary maid or concubine. You are Brother Hongwen’s cousin, his childhood playmate.”

Cao Jinxiu’s face was as pale as death. Minglan continued, “I’m an ordinary woman. I want to have the perfect conjugal bliss. I want my life to go along nicely. But if my husband is talking to the other woman about pomegranate flower, lotus-shaped lantern and rabbit-shaped lantern when I manage household affairs, show filial obedience to elders and teach our children, I will be a mockery. You two are affectionate to each other. What about me? An outsider?”

He Hongwen felt embarrassed and backed up a few steps to stay away from Cao Jinxiu.

“You will never be an outsider. You are the only one Cousin Hongwen likes,” Cao Jinxiu tried to persuade Minglan.

Minglan cut her off, “With you by his side, I will surely be an outsider.”

Minglan decided to speak out all she wanted to say. She looked steadily at He Hongwen and asked softly, “Cousin Jinxiu is indeed a pathetic woman. But Brother Hongwen, I want to ask you some questions. Is there no way you can take care of her without marrying her? If you don’t marry her, will she have no way to live on? In Sheng Mansion, you said that you treated her as your own sister. I bear these words in my mind. So, please help her as a brother. You can seek a good husband for her, give her a dowry and back her up after her marriage. Isn't it a good way to help her?”

Her remarks touched He Hongwen to the heart and he was suddenly enlightened. He had lost his head because of Cao Jinxiu's tears, but now he came to his senses and realized what Minglan said was right.

Cao Jinxiu was anxious as tears welled up in her eyes and was about to roll down. She cast a glance at He Hongwen who kept silent, and then turned to look at Minglan whose face was set in an expression of stubborn determination. Strong feelings of sorrow surged through her. She opened her eyes wide in disbelief and felt alternately hot and cold because of disappointment. Minglan came up to He Hongwen, looked earnestly into his eyes and advised softly, “Brother Hongwen, I won't force you to do anything. Just think it over. If you really like Lady Cao, I won't bear grudges. Old Madam He has helped my family a lot over the years and you are also kind to me. The relationship between Sheng family and He family will remain the same. Suffice to say, if you want me, you can’t keep Lady Cao by your side. I won’t accept her as your concubine or maid! After we get married, you'd better keep away from her. Don't do anything to arouse suspicion. If she needs help, she can come to me.”

After saying that, Minglan felt washed out. She slightly curtsied to He Hongwen and gave a graceful bow to Cao Jinxiu before she turned around and left without looking back at them.

On the way back to the carriage, heedless of the etiquette, Minglan wiped the tears off her face with her sleeves. She dried her eyes and held back tears so that Xiaotao and Dangju could not see it. Then she smiled in the sun as if nothing had happened to her.


In the west of Sheng Mansion, all the door and windows of the main room of Hall of Peaceful Ages were closed. There were only two people in the room.

A bronze ferule was thrown on the floor with a bang. Minglan, who was kneeling before Old Madam Sheng, pulled back her left hand which had been beaten red and swollen. Minglan quietly gritted her teeth to bear the pain with her head bowed.

“How dare you to do such a thing? You are audacious in the extreme. Do you think that I wouldn't punish you?” Old Madam Sheng leaned against the back of the arhat bed and gasped for air with rage.

“I didn't mean that,” Minglan replied in a low voice.

“You…” Old Madam Sehng pointed at Minglan, speechless. After a while, she shouted angrily, “Are you afraid of getting left on the shelf? Otherwise, you wouldn't have got into an argument with Cao Jinxiu. You are the young lady of the Sheng family. Cao family is just a declining family and Cao Jinxiu is not a patch on you!”

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Minglan kept quiet for a moment and said, “Lady Cao is indeed a poor woman.”

“So, you feel sympathy for her?” Old Madam Sheng sneered.

“No. I’m selfish,” Minglan raised her head and answered aloud. “Though Lady Cao is in a pitiable state, I won’t give in to her. She wants to marry into He family? Dream on!”

Old Madam Sheng took a few deep breaths to calm herself and said, “Why are you so stubborn? There are plenty of fish in the sea. Take it easy. I will find a good man to be your husband before my death.”

Minglan gave a bitter smile and laid her hand on Old Madam Sheng's knees. “Grandma, no one is perfect. I don't believe that you can find a perfect man to marry me.”

Old Madam Sheng was shocked at the determination in Minglan's words. She stubbornly glared at Minglan and asked, “Do you think He Hongwen is the best man for your marriage?”

“No, he isn’t the best man.” Minglan remained calm and looked steadily at Old Madam Sheng. “Grandma, you have been picking my future husband in the whole capital for so many years but you still prefer Brother Hongwen to all the rest. Why? Because you know he is a well-behaved gentleman. He is independent, good-natured and dependable. Besides, he vowed to take no concubine when he was a child. After careful consideration, you still think that Brother Hongwen is the best choice for me, don't you?”

Old Madam Sheng snorted and turned her head away from Minglan because she couldn't think of a suitable word to refute her granddaughter.

Minglan gently stroke Old Madam Sheng’s knees and said in a choked voice, “That year I moved to House of Clear Dusk and you told me that you couldn't protect me forever. I keep your words in my mind… Now I meet with difficulties. Grandma, you are afraid that I will get hurt, so you come forward and want to protect me. But I don't want to make a concession. Why should I give in to Cao Jinxiu? Why?”

Minglan raised her voice with a determined expression on her face, “There are a lot of hardships and trials in our lives. We can't run away forever. This time I want to face the difficulty and try my best to overcome it. Maybe my efforts will yield good results and I will have a good marriage. Anyway, we are both satisfied with Brother Hongwen. We shouldn't change our original choice as soon as we meet with difficulties.”

Old Madam Sheng was deeply touched by Minglan's remarks. She was in a trance, thinking of her past life as her eyes were moist with tears. Then she looked at Minglan who was brought up by herself and realized her granddaughter had become a brave, strong-minded young woman. When she was young, she gave up in the face of difficulties because she was not as brave as Minglan. No matter how regretful she was, she couldn't go back to the past. Old Madam Sheng hesitated, “Do you think… he will do as you wish?”

Minglan shook her head and said calmly, “I don’t know. Maybe Brother Hongwen will do as I wish, maybe he won’t. If he still likes Lady Cao and wants to keep her by his side, I will be reconciled to my defeat. Man proposes, God disposes. I have tried my best to win this marriage. Now all I can do is put my future in the hands of god.”

Old Madam Sheng lay back against the pillow on the arhat bed and remained speechless for a long while.

Minglan couldn't bear to see her grandmother in a mood of despondency. She grabbed the side of the bed and slowly hoisted herself to a standing position, feeling great pain in her knees. She bore the pain, sat down beside Old Madam Sheng and soothed with a smile, “Grandma, things aren't that bad. According to Brother Hongwen, Aunt He is also a good person. The trouble with her is that she is too soft-hearted. If I married someone else, I would need to fight with some unknown enemies. But if I married Brother Hongwen, I would only need to defeat Cao family. Cao family is poor and powerless without any backers. If they were obedient, I would give them some money so that they could return to their hometown and have the young men work part-time and study part-time. Even if they still wanted to get money from He family, I would deal with them in other ways. My grandmother loves me; my father and brother enjoy smooth official careers; my sisters have married into noble families. With them behind me, I'm not afraid of Cao family at all. Aunt He is weak and sickly, unable to deal with family affairs. With the blessing of Old Madam He, I can take over the job of managing domestic affairs as soon as I marry into He family. After taking control of He Mansion, I will forbid Cao family to enter He Mansion at will. Since Aunt He is soft-hearted, by then I will ask the servants who wait upon her to persuade her day and night. As time goes on, she will be persuaded… I'm not afraid of the difficulties. Grandma, trust me, I'm able to deal with them.”

Minglan's long persuasion relieved Old Madam Sheng's anxiety and her face softened. She looked at Minglan who wore a determined look, reached out to rub the girl's hair and sighed, “I thought you were still too young to deal with such a thing, but you have come up with a plan. What are you going to do next? Just wait for them to take a stand?”

Minglan sighed slightly and answered with profound resignation, “I have made it clear that I won't accept Cao Jinxiu. If He family really want Brother Hongwen to marry me, they will give a response in a few days. Let's wait… ten days. Ten days later, if they don’t commit themselves, you can begin to look for another man to be my future husband. After all, there are so many unmarried young men in the world.”

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