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Published at 27th of July 2019 11:53:04 AM


Chapter 122

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The Dissolution (1)

Proofread by DragonRider

There were two ways to promote friendship speedily: one was to have a common enemy; the other was to have a common secret.

Since Minglan had been made to listen to Rulan telling the story of her falling love with Wen Yanjing, Rulan became more friendly with her young sister. Rulan often went to House of Clear Dusk and played with Minglan. The two sisters ate together, did needlework together and practiced calligraphy together. Rulan even wanted to sleep with Minglan at night but Minglan refused her firmly.

Minglan strictly warned Rulan not to meet Wen Yanjing in secret; otherwise, she would tell the elders that Rulan was in love with WenYanjing. In Minglan's view, no matter how much Rulan liked Wen Yanjing, she should wait patiently for his proposal. Rulan readily agreed, “You can rest assured. In the next few months, Brother Jing has to prepare for the Autumn Imperial Examination. He has no time to meet me.”

“If he has time, you will go to meet him, right?” Minglan never expected that Rulan was completely infatuated with Wen Yanjing.

Rulan blushed scarlet and replied in smug satisfaction, “Of course I will. One day apart seems like three years. I will miss him very much.”




There can be a magic about love that defies all explanation. Rulan used to be an ignorant girl who even couldn’t recite the Three-Character Classic, but now she could quote a well-known phrase (one day apart seems like three years) from the Book of Songs to convey her feelings. Minglan was a little jealous and immediately teased, “You should pray to Buddha that he can pass the Autumn Imperial Examination this time, or you will have to wait for another three years.”

Rulan thought what Minglan said was reasonable, so she devoted herself to participating in the religious activities in the following days. She not only actively accompanied Wang shi to the temples and worshiped the Buddha but also frequently visited Old Madam Sheng’sBuddhist Hall. As a result, every time Old Madam Sheng wanted to pray to Buddha alone in the Buddhist Hall, she needed to make a reservation in advance.

A few days after the Autumn Imperial Examination, the imperial court published a list of successful candidates. Not only Changfeng and Li Yu but also three of the five Xiucai who stayed at the bungalows in Sheng Mansion passed the examination. Sheng Hong was pleased that his son and the candidates for his son-in-law all achieved good results in the Autumn Imperial Examination.

Since Concubine Lin had sent been to the village estates, Changfeng had to change his daily routine and lifestyle. Wang shi insisted that they should have some beautiful maids wait upon Changfeng. Sheng Hong suspected that Wang shi harbored malicious intentions. Hai shi believed that no sweet without sweat. Changbai argued that Changfeng should have the good self-control and study consciously. After a discussion, they decided that Changfeng would be paid according to his work. If he wanted more benefits, he should make more progress in his study.

On hearing this news Minglan applauded their decision. Scholar families were wiser than noble families. Punishment was useless for a playboy but he would give in to his weakness. If Jia Zheng forbade Baoyu from getting close to Xiren and Qingwen and meeting Xue Baochai and Lin Daiyu, and had some old ugly female servants attend upon him, Baoyu would study hard and try his best to win an official rank.

Under the pressure, Changfeng had an impetus to study. He got his three beautiful maids back after passing the Autumn Imperial Examination. It was said that he could draw some money from the accountant's office every month if he passed the Spring Imperial Examination. For this reason, Changfeng continued to study hard.

Molan was very glad to hear that Changfeng passed the Autumn Imperial Examination. She returned to Sheng Mansion to show off her brother's achievement and encouraged Changfeng to keep on working hard and make more progress. Wang shi became worried. She and her illegal son bore grudges against each other. Now he became a capable scholar. Would he get in her way in the future?

“The Imperial Court holds the imperial examination every three years. Juren have the chance to get official positions. But only Jinshi can be offered good official positions. Every time the number of the successful candidates in the highest imperial examination varies from three or four hundred to thirty or forty. After becoming low-ranking officials, they need to accumulate experience and will be promoted slowly. So Changfeng needs the support of Sheng family. Mother, don't worry. He won’t get in your way,” Hai shi analyzed Changfeng's future official career in great detail, which impressed Wang shi.


Finally, Wang shi was persuaded by her daughter-in-law.

Minglan stood by and observed the behavior of Old Madam Sheng. She felt that her grandmother was an interesting woman. When Old Madam Sheng was young, she was a pigheaded wife and never made an exception for others. But now for the sake of Minglan’s marriage, she became open-minded and quick-witted.

The Spring Imperial Examination would be held in February next year. Li Yu stayed at Changwu’s house in order to prepare for the examination. He often went to visit Changbai for advice on essay writing of the metropolitan examination. So, every time Li Yu went to give his greetings to Old Madam Sheng, she showed great concern for him and asked him many questions with an affable smile. Li Yu took Old Madam Sheng’s hand and lowered his head, as shy as Daphne.

He was aware of Old Madam Sheng's intention. When he raised his head, he saw Minglan's shadow on the screen. So he made eyes at Minglan while talking with Old Madam Sheng.

“Grandma, he has been peeping at me!” As soon as Li Yu left, Minglan ran out from behind the screen, tugged at Old Madam Sheng’s sleeve and complained, “This fellow is not a good man!”

Old Madam Sheng slowly took a sip of tea and said, “When a man is young, he worships his parents. When he grows up, he adores beautiful young women. It's human nature.” She put down the teacup and looked at Minglan. “Your Aunt Yun has made inquiries about him. Li family has the good family customary moral standards and way of life. Li Yu doesn't have any Tongfang or concubines. When he studied in Songshan Academy, he behaved well and never fooled around with his dissolute classmates.”

“So what?”


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“I'm just curious about him. You know, I've been idle recently.”

Just then a maid came in and gave Old Madam Sheng an invitation from He family. Old Madam He invited them to He Mansion to taste the Silver Bud-tea. Old Madam Sheng raised her eyebrows and Minglan pouted. Today the weather was cool. On the way to He Mansion, Minglan and Old Madam Sheng quietly sat in the carriage, both poker-faced. There was a small table painted brown between them.

After reaching the front gate of He Mansion, they went straight to the main house. Old Madam He sat in the left-hand seat and Second Madam He sat beside her. At the sight of Old Madam Sheng's appearance at the door, Second Madam He stood up and asked her and Minglan to sit down. As soon as Old Madam Sheng took a seat, she rolled her eyes at Old Madam He and snorted, “Since you invite me to taste the Silver Bud-tea, now serve me tea quickly.” Old Madam He, who was also unhappy these days, rolled her eyes at her intimate friend and retorted, “Be patient. The Silver Bud-tea has been newly picked and processed, so it's better to brew it freshly. Wait for a few minutes. I've packed some tea for you. You can take it with you when you leave.”

The two old friends glared at each other and bickered for a while, then they felt it was childish to do that. Second Madam He said some joking words and the tension in the room gradually dissipated. Second Madam He apologized to Old Madam Sheng and served her mother-in-law, Old Madam Sheng and Minglan tea and snacks before she walked out of the room. The two old madams had a short chat and then Old Madam Sheng asked about He Hongwen’s mother. Old Madam He sighed, “Since that day… she has been ill and lain on the bed all the time.” Old Madam Sheng also gave a deep sigh.

Just then a maid came in and passed on the message from He Hongwen's mother to them, “Madam is ill in bed and can't get up to meet the guests. She dares not bother Old Madam Sheng, but she invites Lady Minglan to her bedroom for a chat because she misses Lady Minglan very much.” Old Madam Sheng glanced at Old Madam He who shook her head helplessly, and then looked at Minglan who, however, slightly nodded to her grandmother. Old Madam Sheng thought for a while and allowed Minglan to see He Hongwen’s mother.

After Minglan followed the maid out of the room, Old Madam Sheng's face suddenly changed as she immediately hurled a question at Old Madam He, “What are you going to do? I'm warning you; whatever you do, don’t let Minglan be wronged.”

Old Madam He sighed with a helpless look on her face, “We have known each other for decades, and you should know me well. I hate the way Cao family do things. There's no doubt that relatives should help one another. We have given them money and helped them find a house to live in. And we have also promised to help Cao Jinxiu's brothers with their careers. What else do they want from us? Cao family are just our relatives. Do we have to provide the whole Cao family with food, clothing, shelter and transportation for a lifetime?” Old Madam He was a bit agitated and sucked in deep lungful of air to calm herself down before she continued, “If Master Cao had been wrongly implicated in ‘Xiaoliangshan Mine case’ so that he had been exiled to Liang Prefecture, I would have felt sorry for him. But in fact, he… Humph, he embezzled lots of money and exploited the miners!”


The most important reason Old Madam Sheng and Old Madam He could be good friends was because they were similar in personality. Both of them were blunt and straightforward. After hearing these words, Old Madam Sheng felt much more comfortable, so she took Old Madam He's hand and said softly, “My dear sister, I know you are a sensible sort of person. I'm just afraid… Alas, I suffered a lot because of my husband's concubine when I was young. I don’t want Minglan to suffer the same fate.”

Old Madam He recalled her agonizing ordeal in her youth and felt sad. “I see what you're saying. I have also lived a tough life in the past decades. My grandson, Hongwen is indeed a handsome, talented man of good character, though I say it myself. Although he is still young, he has been to a great many places with my brothers, and he is experienced and knowledgeable. In recent years, he has made a lot of money. Besides, he is filial and considerate, and know how to take care of others. Since that year I told him that Minglan would be his future wife, he has been devoted to Minglan. Every time he was invited to attend a banquet, he kept away from other women. Even at home, he seldom talks to the maids. Minglan is a very good girl. I have been hoping that Hongwen and Minglan can get married and get along well with each other in the future. It will be a happy and satisfactory marriage. But I didn't expect… Well, even if Minglan won’t be my granddaughter-in-law, I still like this girl. I hope that she will have a good marriage.” Old Madam He let out a long sigh.

‘There is no rose without a thorn in this world and all the beautiful things in life are just so ephemeral. Now things are beyond my control and I have to make a decision as soon as possible,’ Old Madam Sheng thought and gave vent to a deep sigh.

……

These days He Hongwen’s mother was put in a quandary and frequently sighed. As soon as the Imperial Court had published the list of successful candidates in Autumn Imperial Examination, Old Madam He had said sharply to her, “Do you think that your son is Minglan's only alternative? All the young scholars in the bungalows of Sheng Mansion come from good families and are rich in knowledge. They are all qualified to be Lord Sheng's son-in-law.”

He Hongwen’s mother was on pins and needles. On the one hand, she was afraid that her son would miss a good marriage and live a frustrated life in the future. On the other hand, her older sister, Madam Cao wept and sobbed by her side all day, which shook her resolve. Her mother-in-law firmly refused to accept Cao Jinsiu as He Hongwen’s concubine but her sister kept begging her. He Hongwen’s mother was not strong-minded, so she was exhausted from dealing with Madam Cao. She thought it over and over again and finally decided to talk with Minglan first.

“Good girl, Hongwen has told me all that happened in the grove of peach trees. I know your meaning. Please don’t blame him. It’s all my fault.” He Hongwen’s mother sat on the bed with her back against pillows, a kerchief wrapped around her head. Her face was sallow with dark circles beneath her eyes and her cheeks had sunk in. In a word, she looked pale and haggard. “But… Jinxiu, this poor girl has no way out. I know you are a kind-hearted girl. For pity's sake, please allow her to be Hongwen’s concubine.”

Before Minglan had come to He Mansion, she had known that He Hongwen's mother would implore her to accept Cao Jinxiu. So she remained calm, twisted her head sideways and looked at He Hongwen standing at the end of the bed. He gazed at Minglan with a guilty look on his face. Minglan turned right and saw Madam Cao sitting opposite the bed and Cao Jinxiu standing beside her. The two of them looked pale and haggard with red eyes.

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