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Published at 29th of January 2019 03:36:22 AM


Chapter 33

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A Report on Worsening Living Conditions (2)

This morning, Brother Changbai visited House of Clear Dusk. He was here for the promised cotton shoes. Minglan greeted him herself. Several steps after his entrance, he saw a detached beauty sweeping the floor. Since she looked unfamiliar to him, Changbai stared at her for seconds. However, noticing his glance, the beauty stretched her neck with a cold humph and a lofty face. Changbai frowned at her reaction immediately, and said to Minglan, "How come your servant girls so misbehaved? They shall be educated!"

Mei'er was so ashamed that she dropped the broom and rushed into the house. Minglan was left there embarrassed.

A few more steps into the yard, there was a servant girl leaning against a pillar, acting like a pliant willow swaying in the wind. She recited poems in a soft voice. Listening carefully, Changbai found she was saying, " Blue-collared lad, you’ve long been in my heart. ". He frowned again and scolded Danju, "It's enough for servant girls to become literate and follow orders. Who taught them this! Ignorance is a virtue for women. And she is at most a servant girl!"

Ke'er got pale. She stumbled into her room. Minglan was depressed and put on a false smile!

Minglan invited Changbai into the house. It was just a few sentences' communication before Yinxing scrambled Danju's job and served tea and desserts from time to time. Yinxing stood by their side, kept smiling, and couldn't help staring at Changbai. Xiaotao asked Yinxing to leave but she refused. Changbai looked extremely sullen. He set the teacup down to the table heavily and said, "Sixth sister, it's time for you to discipline your servant girls!"

After saying that, he grabbed his new shoes, turned around and left without delay. Minglan now was totally depressed!

After launch, "diligent" Changfeng, who had been absorbed in his study upon Sheng Hong’s praise, took a break and went out for a walk. He walked to House of Clear Dusk before he knew it. Though he and Minglan didn't get along well, Minglan still warmly invited him to go inside and have tea. However, Changfeng was obviously spaced out. Seeing Mei'er, he stepped forward immediately and greeted her, "How have you been, Mei'er?"

"I was just driven out of your house and won't die. There is no need for your third childe to bear me in mind." Mei'er replied ironically.




"…You, you are wronged!" Changfeng couldn't help caring Mei'er with a trembling voice.

At this time, Ke'er came in a pitiful gesture, seeming to be trembled at every step. Seeing her move, Changfeng's eyes went wet, "Ke'er, you look thinner!" On hearing this, Ke'er couldn't bear but shed her tears, which dropped like a broken string of beads, "Third Childe, I thought I would never get the chance to meet you again…"

Changfeng rushed to hold her in arms and comforted her. And a wail of sorrow and cry arose to the very sky.

Cuiwei, Danju, even Yinxing and Jiu'er were so astonished by the scene that they stood there not knowing what to do. They involuntarily turned to Minglan and asked her what to do next with eyes while Minglan was speechless at the mess.

She thought today was already a bad day. However, to her surprise, what worse was still on the way.

Lord Qi had reported to the emperor and was permitted to stay at the capital during the Spring Festival. Thus, Teacher Zhuang announced the beginning of the winter vocation. Before Qi Heng left, he gave Minglan a gift for house moving in advance. It was a flatfish-shaped chime of white tallow jade sitting upon a varnished rack. Beside it dangled a fine hammer of the same jade. Such a fine white tallow jade was so crystal clear and eye catching that Minglan dared not put it in the meeting hall. She put it on the desk in her bedroom instead.

However, unexpectedly, Molan and Rulan dropped around on the same day. Rulan was already on the brick bed having tea, but Molan insisted to walk around Minglan's new house. She pulled Rulan directly into Minglan's bedroom. Minglan felt things were not going well instantly as in no time Molan said in a soft voice by pointing to the white jade chime, "…That is the gift given by brother Yuanruo!"

Rulan stopped and stared at the white jade chime for quite a while. After she came to herself, she fixed her eyes closely at Minglan for a long time, which made Minglan break out in a cold sweat. Molan chuckled besides, "Sixth sister is so lucky to be remembered by Brother Yuanruo. I haven't gained his gift when I moved to Luxuriant Pavilion. Can you tell me why Brother Yuanruo treat you so differently, my dear sister?"


Minglan’s innocent eyes were wide open, and she asked, “…Right. Why is that? Do you know, fifth elder sister?” Then her naïve face turned to look at Rulan who, at the glance of Molan’s cheerful look, burst with an unknown gust of rage. Looking again at Minglan, Rulan decided to choose the lesser one when faced with two losses and said loudly, “It’s simple. Qi brother often has meal with sixth girl in the Hall of Peaceful Ages and regards her as a little sister. Mother also said, we’re relatives like siblings of the same family!”

Her sound turned louder and louder and even Rulan herself was convinced by the words. While talking, she looked at the child-like Minglan, believing what she said made perfect sense. Minglan smiled and clapped, “Fifth elder sister, once you spell it out, I totally understand it. You’re so clever!”

Good Heavens! This was the first time Rulan was ever praised for her intelligence in her lifetime.

Molan still wanted to set up one against the other by provoking words, but Minglan shook her head and said innocently, “… No wonder forth elder sister always goes to the family school and takes snacks to brother Yuanruo. You’re siblings!” Rulan shot the sword-sharp eyes at Molan, who flushed at once and fumed in high-pitch, “Stop talking nonsense! I was bringing snacks to our two elder brothers!”

Minglan touched her own head and asked ignorantly, “Huh? Why did big brother and fourth younger brother say all your snacks were given to brother Yuanruo?... Probably I got it wrong.” Then she turned her confused look to Rulan, who already had an answer in mind and stared at Molan scornfully, “… What a good scheme, fourth elder sister. You really inherit your well-established family education!”

Molan slapped down a teacup and shouted, “What did you say?!”

Rulan was a bit daunted because if Concubine Lin got involved, she would land herself in big trouble. Minglan added in a hurry, “Fifth elder sister means hospitality is the old custom of Sheng Mansion. Fourth elder sister you really carry this family tradition well!”

Rulan exhaled in relief and patted Minglan’s head satisfactorily while Molan stared ragefully at them. Minglan couldn’t help muttering secretly to herself, “I had no choice; I was just defending myself.”

After sending them away in smile, Danju came back and put on a cold face. She closed all doors and said seriously to Minglan, “My lady, we have to clear up the yard and never let those bitches in to make a scene. Your reputation will be affected!” Xiaotao and Cuiwei also agreed.


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Minglan was sitting on the brick bed, holding a book of needlework sample and comparing it with an embroidering pattern. She smiled, “Don’t worry. You don’t have to do anything and just let them make troubles. Next time you visit others, pick some girls or old servants you get along well with and tell them what happened here, especially what happened when big brother and third elder brother were here. Be sure to let it spread to Madam!”

Danju’s eye lit up and she said joyfully, “My lady…” but she then stopped there.

Cuiwei shook her head, “What is the good to let everyone know? They will laugh at your inability to discipline others! Then you might be criticized by Madam.”

Xiaotao also nodded, “Right. Madam will not necessarily support you and many others are waiting to see you embarrassed.”

Minglan waved to stop them, and said calmly, “You three come over after dinner. I need your help.”

The three girls had to go out in a depressed mood.

Minglan gently opened a bit of the window and looked out. What she saw was red plums, bright and colorful, swaying against the icy sky and snowy ground, naturally forming a noble beauty. It was a lie that she wasn’t a bit annoyed because now the thing was not to compromise to avoid further troubles but that those maids showed no respect to her and dared to act impudently. Madam was in charge of the family affairs; Concubine Lin possessed wealth and children; she, in contrast, was just a daughter of a concubine, who was only cherished by an old grandmother. These servant girls were convinced that she didn’t dare to make any troubles, not alone upsetting the seniors behind them!

For the first time, Minglan began to understand the complexities of the big family in ancient times. She was not afraid to deal with these young maids, but she mustn’t offend Changfeng and Madam. Though she had Old Madam to back her up, she shouldn’t bother Old Madam every time she got into troubles because she was the grandmother for all the grandchildren and shouldn’t be biased due to personal preference. There were things that Old Madam must stay away from and that Minglan had to deal with on her own.

If she enjoyed Rulan’s status, she would take the leisure in being a young lady, enjoying all her days, but she wasn’t Rulan. Where there were people, there would be a social group with conflicts and schemes where she was trapped in right now. It would be ridiculous trying to stay out of the matter. Figuring out the first move was the priority.


In the evening, Danju and Xiaotao closed windows one by one while Cuiwei helped Minglan cut out a large sheet of paper and prepare brush and ink. Minglan said, “Now try to recall the uncourteous things girl servants did. Let’s write them down and make a set of rules to discipline them in the future.”

Cuiwei thought it was a good idea but Danju felt pessimistic, “I know your intention my lady, but even if we write the rules down, we are not able to punish them.”

Minglan began to add water to grind ink. Under the light, her eyebrows looked delicate and a pair of tiny dimples appeared next to the corners of her mouth. Smiling, she said, “Don’t be upset. Take one bite of the elephant at a time and troubles have to be cleared one by one. Just do as I tell you.” Never sacrifice your own character just in order to punish immoral others, something that didn’t deserve her expense of inner peace and pleasure.

Xiaotao was the most obedient one and began to list indecent and uncourteous behaviors of servants in details while Cuiwei summarized smilingly next to her. Danju was most careful and added things that they missed out. Though the wisdom of the mass might not exceed that of the wisest individual, three heads were better than one. They, in a neat and concise way, summarized and streamlined to list every rule such as “No going outside of the House of Clear Dusk with no reasons”, “No discussion about masters’ conducts”, “Be loyal to your duties”, “No quarrel or fight”, “No entrance into the main room without permission” and so on.

The three girls had been servants at a very young age, so they were most familiar with the trivial dos and don’ts. At the beginning, they felt restricted but as they discussed, the rules became more detailed and comprehensive. Minglan even served tea and refreshments for them, then recorded what they suggested one by one, nearly finishing until midnight when Cuiwei and Xiaotao cleaned up the paper pieces, brushes and ink scattering all over the brick bed and Danju fetched a basin of warm water for Minglan to wash her hands.

While carefully rubbing ink stains on Minglan’s hands, Danju couldn’t help but ask, “My lady, will this work? Why don’t we ask Old Madam to help us?”

Minglan scratched Danju’s nose with her wet finger, “I have an ace up my sleeve.” Danju turned her face away and pouted her mouth, taking out dry cloth to dry Minglan’s hands.

Minglan suddenly thought of something, and took up the brush again, adding one more sentence on the large paper: to be continued…

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