Published at 24th of June 2017 04:00:47 AM

Chapter 21.2

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Chapter -21 - Chapter 21 Part 2

Time flew by and the Sheng Household was peaceful and eventless. Old Madam Sheng had tidied up the rules of the house, the major power in the household slowly returned to Wang Shi’s hand but people still had their own power in their courtyards and they would ask Old Madam Sheng whenever they had uncertainties. Upon seeing that the household was in order and the maids were able to manage the house better and were more obedient, Sheng Hong felt very satisfied. Only Concubine Lin complained. Regardless, Sheng Hong remembering Governess Kong’s words, stubbornly chose to ignore Concubine Lin even when the siblings, Changfeng and Molan, interceded. Sheng Hong would respond by standing his ground and scolding them.

Concubine Lin refused to let things be. A good few years of spoiling her made her get used to being spoiled, so she resorted to underhanded means like a sudden illness, a sudden resentment, a child crying, a sudden provokation but Sheng Hong in the end, had been sharing a bed with her for more than a decade so no matter how many schemes she used it would be no more than an old trick. Because of this, Sheng Hong had built an immune system against these tricks. He was reminded of back when he was young, when Old Madam Sheng was still serving him; she had been kind to him. Thinking of how their relationship became how it was now made him feel that he was lacking filial piety. This caused an emotional domino effect, resulting in him having an even colder heart towards concubine Lin and devoting his heart into his job.

Encouraging farming, dispatching merchants, in just two to three years under the Deng Prefecture's governance the place became rich, turned over a lot of taxes, made good performances and with the help of his good connections, there would often be people taking care of things from afar. When the three-year term expired; he would retake and score the evaluation test, rise to a fifth rank officer and assume position again. 

With the pride of an official and focusing on having a smooth career, Sheng Hong paid little attention to Concubine Lin’s moods but rather against the poorly tempered Wang Shi, after arguing with her a few times; he got used to it. Today, when he stood his ground, Wang Shi also had nothing to retort. Every time she made mistakes, she would be criticized by Sheng Hong.  'Not filial', 'disrespectful ', 'not virtuous', after all these retorts had become useless against Sheng Hong, Wang Shi had no strength to fight back while Sheng Hong again and again emerged victorious. On his normal days he would go to the young and beautiful Concubine Xiang and Concubine Ping to soothe his mood and guide his children’s school work; living quite leisurely.

Whenever Concubine Lin notices that the atmosphere was not right, she would go gentle on her schemes and did not dare to mention any request, spending almost all her energy trying to coax Sheng Hong.

Minglan concealed herself in Shou'an Hall with Old Madam Sheng accompanying her; a youngster and an elder coming together and spending their time harmoniously and laughing constantly. Every time Sheng Hong went to Shou’an Hall he felt that the atmosphere was very pleasing and comfortable, it relaxed his mind. The Old Madam was chatting more comfortable while sometimes holding Minglan’s embroidery works. This new feeling of sincere love was quite pleasant, plus with Molan and Rulan working together, Changbai and Changfeng also considered being successful in their studies and with the wife and the concubines also holding their tempers, at first glance, it was all quite harmonious. Sheng Hong felt a new sense of peace and prosperity.

This afternoon they would be attending Mrs. Zhuang's guzheng class, Minglan’s fingers had been hurting since this morning but Mr. Zhuang kept instructing endlessly; if this went on, there would be no time to rest at noon. Looking up with pity filled eyes; she found out that other than her and Changdong who was practicing writing, all the others were focused on the discussion.

The trending topic in the capital was about the third prince and the fourth prince. The Third Prince had worked his concubines hard, toiling day and night with little to no payback. Up until now he had still not been able to procure a son and the palace invited many a priests and monks; burning incense and praying every day. This attracted lots of attention from officers who were originally just on-lookers since the Fourth Prince’s only son was growing well, already starting to learn to talk. The Fourth Prince had an open heart and a fat body but a rather good temper, thus he held an attraction to the public.

The Emperor’s body was getting worse day by day, the debate about the next candidate had been heating up, and both sides had their own people wagging the flag and moving through the scriptures. It was all awfully noisy.

Mr. Zhuang spoke about a book called <<Confucius’s family language and the rituals of the west>>, inside the book was a sentence: ‘when the Crown Prince died, the Emperor didn’t give the crown prince position to his grandson (crown prince’s son) but instead named the Emperor’s other son the successor’[1]. A good teacher would try to link theories with these topics, plus this Mister had a heroic attitude so he threw out this topic so that students could talk about their own opinion – of whether the next ruler of the country should be the rightful heir (crown prince) or someone determined by merit.

At the beginning Chinghai and Changfeng opposed, thinking that speaking ill of the palace would bring about trouble, but Mr. Zhuang waved his hand, smiled and said: "There would be no problem, nowadays even the capital’s teahouse are often talking about this, let alone those princes, government officials and senior officials, discussing behind closed doors won’t attract any trouble. Besides what we are discussing is whether the next ruler of the country should be the rightful heir or someone determined; it has nothing to do with the government; we are all just discussing!"

A teacher’s word had great might in the Sheng Residence, so the students immediately joined the discussion. Both sides are very clear, Changbai and Rulan were naturally on the rightful heir side while Changfeng and Molan were on the determined side. Meanwhile Minglan was fishing in troubled waters [2] while Changdong abstained.

Changbai opened the debate with first implicitly proposing the previous Emperor Qin Ershi, Hu Hai, [3] who’s known as the Rotten Emperor; he wasn’t in the line of inheritance and had ruined the good dynasty. Changfeng quickly refuted it with the example of Emperor of Wu of Han – Liu Che the 10th son of Emperor Jing of Han, who was the oldest living son of Emperor Wen of Han [4]. Changbai countered by continuing reading the classic historical and immediately concisely pointed out Emperor Jing’s of Han love of the little Liu Che to the point of spoiling him and that Liu Che’s mother, Wang Zhi was appointed to become the next empress after the previous empress died. According to the customs of inheritance, it was justifiable for Liu Che to be the next one to take the throne; this was precisely the principle of direct inheritance. 

Changfeng’s heart thumped and Molan followed, warmly putting forward the famous fool Emperor Hui of Jin [5]; in a thin and soft voice she said, "... All civil officials and military officials know the wisdom of Emperor Hui of Jin, once he got the throne by being the crown prince, then came the chaos of Jia Nanfeng and the eight princes fighting for power [6], if the throne was only given to another prince, Jin dynasty wouldn’t be in the south [7], Big Brother, what do you say?”

Even if Rulan lacked theoretical weapons, she was still great at carrying the momentum, “How many foolish people such as the Emperor Hui of Jin can there be? It couldn’t be fourth older sister treats all concubine-born children as foolish, right?”

Then they continued citing many extreme examples like the Emperor spending a long time in promoting child’s growth in places, distressing narration of Emperor Yang’s tyranny to the people that had caused a lot of disasters,  then quickly counterattacking it with an example of Li Shimin’s (Emperor Taizong's of Tang) reign of Zhenguan era that was considered to be one of the golden age of China to blow the debate again, the second young master might not be as good as the eldest son but both sides were evenly matched. Meanwhile Mr. Zhuang thought that this is actually quite endearing; they all spoke like a pie - smooth. It was just that they were full of doubts.

Talking for a long time made their mouths dry but then when he tried to find Minglan; he found Minglan leisurely sitting in the side, making him immediately observe Minglan’s situation. This caused Minglan’s eye to widen and freeze! If this time she pretended to be ignorant again, she would gradually be looked down upon by others and would think that her intellectual ability was not on par with the others. Too much cowardice in the life of the young lady, how that would end, she already had a good idea [8]. 

But of course, answering this would not be consistent with Minglan's character so she thought before she gave a smile to her siblings and Mr. Zhuang and then said, "I care only about the mind; cannot be stupid, I have a problem in my heart but I can’t say it out, so might as well put on a show for people to see, count it as entertainment, how about that? But later, all of you better not say a word about it.”

Mr. Zhuang in good mood, gladly nodded with the others. Minglan called for Danju to come in, then whispered something in her ear. After Danju answered under her breath before proceeding to call three little maidservants, one of whom was the new maidservant, Yan Cao who was assigned to cut the grass at Minglan’s courtyard, while the other two were Rulan’s and Molan’s new maidservants.

Three little maidservants stood timidly at the front of the room and then kowtowed as a salute to the master. They then stood straight and glanced at each other in confusion.

Minglan warned them with three sentences, “Mr. Zhuang is now lecturing us, so today comment about our best and lowest of us, three sisters. Mr. Zhuang had just come in to lecture as recently and we are not good at boasting about ourselves. We’ll pay the three of you for the lip service that you would give and the one who says the best would be given a reward by their master!”

Can Yao looked pleasantly surprised at Minglan and the other two went to look at their own masters. Seeing the three ladies were nodding their heads, they affirmed that Minglan was telling the truth. Minglan smiled and looked at the several spectators and sternly said to the three maidservants: "The maidservant to talk first is Fourth Older Sister’s, then Fifth Older Sister’s and then mine. The three young maidservants, which do you think is the most virtuous, smart and has a good temper?"

The young maidservants in the end were still young and lacking. One by one they spoke; one said that Rulan practiced calligraphy every day and respected her parents; the other said that Molan learnt poems every day and had a soft demeanor; Can Yao said that at quite often at night, Minglan practiced embroidery. At the beginning they said things delicately and Minglan, at the side couldn't withstand it so she tries hard to encourage them. From time to time she would say mention things like that the reward would increase. This made them become more and more vigorous in talking and even start to get anxious and blush later on but they didn’t forget to point that the other side is nonsense; rebutting what the other maidservants say in between their personal attacks.

Minglan waved her hand; stopping them before they quarrelled and asked, "I ask you again, among the three of us sisters; who’s the oldest?" This time there was no objection from the three little maidservants, and they were whispering that it was Molan. Behind her, Minglan heard sounds of moving but ignored it and asked again, "Then among the three of us sisters, was is born from the legal wife?" This time Rulan’s servant answered loudly: "It's my lady." The others muttered vague replies.

Minglan looked back at the crowd and smiled. Mr. Zhuang's eyes showed signs of praise as he sent a small nod towards her. Minglan recognised that this was an indication of praise and cheerfully turned around. Changfeng looked at his brother, Changbai and they stared at each other for a while. It was Changbai who broke the stare first as he swiftly shifted his gaze to the outside and gave a smile. Minglan was incredible.

Sheng Changbai, this person, compared to all the people in the Sheng was different; with a silent nature, strictly upright attitude, accomplished although young and regardless of what books he's read, he was still conscious and experienced yet talkative, cheerful and flourishing contrary to Sheng Hong. It was said that he resembled the late grandfather of the Wang Household and Wang Shi had also said he had the face of her dead mother.

Today this smile, it was likely that even the younger sister Rulan and concubine Xiao would not enjoy this. Minglan held her hair to cool her neck.

At this time, Changfeng could not help but open his mouth, "Sixth Younger Sister is so wrong." Everyone looked at him, only to see Changfeng’s eyebrows were raised before he continued, "These little maidservants have just come in recently. They haven’t learned all the rules, how would they distinguish the wise and have a good temper? Naturally it caused a quarrel." Changbai did not speak. He only slightly raised his mouth as Minglan let out an 'oh' and said, "What Third Older Brother said is reasonable, what do you think?”

And then she went back and asked the three small maidservants. Minglan looked serious, "You are young and you do not understand the rules, but you have eyes, I come to ask you, between the three ladies, which is the best-looking, the most talented and is the most virtous? The total score came out.”

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[1] [ 公仪仲子嫡子死而立其弟] this is the closes translation we can give to this sentence. It’s simply saying that the emperor doesn’t give the crown prince position to the crown prince’s son but instead to his (Emperor’s) other sons.

[2] Fishing in trouble waters = to involve oneself in a difficult, confused, or dangerous situation, especially with a view to gaining an advantage.

[3] =Real Name: Hu Hai

Title once he became the emperor: Emperor Qin Ershi (Qin stands for Qin Dynasty, with Ershi standing as the second emperor of the Dynasty) 

Short summary: He isn’t the crown prince and if it wasn’t for his advisor’s help he wouldn’t have become an emperor. The advisor is only helping him so he could take the throne from him. And as you guess it the dynasty was in chaos in his hands. 

[4] =Real Name: Liu Che

Title when he became the emperor: Emperor Wu of Han (Han stands for Han Dynasty).

Short Summary: Originally just a concubine-born child but with the Empress of his father (Emperor Jing) childless and disposed along with the original crown prince (born from a concubine), he appoints Wang Zhi (Liu Che’s mom) his empress and with that the seven-years-old Liu Che being the oldest son of the empress became the crown prince. For more info: 

=Real Name: Liu Qi

Title when he became the emperor: Emperor Jing of Han (Han stands for Han Dynasty).

Short Summary:  Father of Liu Che, the oldest child of Emperor Wen. A concubine-born. 

=Real Name: Liu Heng

Title when he became the emperor: Emperor Wen of Han (Han stands for Han Dynasty).

Short Summary of him:  Father of Liu Qi.

[5] =Real Name: Sima Zhong

Title when he became the emperor: Emperor Hui of Jin (Jin stands for Jin Dynasty).

Short Summary of him:  Was a concubine-born and also has mental disorder. Here’s an example of how worse it is:

Once, when he heard frogs croaking, he asked, in all seriousness, "Do they croak because they want to, or because the government ordered them to?" 

[6] Jia Nanfeng = the Empress of Emperor Hui. Was controlling the emperor to attain power and was involved in killing princes and people of high power. She was one of the main causes of the War of the Eight Princes. 

[7] Because of their military strength weaken with the fight of the eight princes; Jin (The dynasty) was force to evacuate to south when the barbarian fought them. Things could have gone differently if the previous emperor gave the throne to someone else and not the Emperor Hui who can’t even manage to secure his position and get rid of the threats. 

[8] [处处缩手缩脚的结局迎春小姐已经很好的诠释了] Because we don’t know if this 春小姐 is a new character and since it doesn’t really fit that this is a new character from how it goes, so we decided to translate it as (春小) young lady’s (春) life.

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