Published at 31st of January 2019 03:59:48 AM

Chapter 35

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A Guideline on Improving Living Conditions (2)

Sheng Hong was talked into her assertion and began to feel sorry, so he gave a soothing glance to Wang shi. Witnessing the scene, Old Madam Sheng quirked up the corners of her mouth and said finally, “Madam, pleased take the bother to teach Minglan how to manage house affairs and let her learn more.”

Sheng Hong immediately echoed, “Yes, Old Madam. She should have taught Minglan.” While speaking he covertly pulled Wang shi’s sleeve, who also chimed in in a hurry, “Minglan is also my daughter. Teaching her is my duty.”  

Changfeng wore a face of worry, staring at Minglan imploringly. While Minglan forced herself not to turn to him and only stood well-mannered in front of Old Madam Sheng, listening to her reprimand. Rulan shot out challenging look to Molan who remained an indifferent face because she didn’t a bit care about the fate of those servants except for feeling a little embarrassed.

Liu Kun’s wife convened all the girl servants in the House of Clear Dusk to stand in order in the yard. Wang shi was sitting up in the main chair and Cuiwei served with every caution her a cup of ginseng tea. Wang shi took a sip of it and screened with her eyes the girls one by one. Though they were playful, they knew their day was coming. Everyone stood obediently, shoulders locked, head bowed, and breath constrained.  

“…I tolerated you since you are young, but I didn’t expect that you should take advantage of sixth young lady’s kindness to bully her! How dare you!” Wang shi scolded, patting on the chair, “Which one is Ke’er? Stand out!”

Ke’er swayed her way forward. She was wearing a red long jacket edged with fur embroidered with silk, looking fragile, pitiful yet charming. Wang shi sneered, “What a sick beauty! I heard that since you came here, you fell ill time and again and never recovered. It seems this place is not suitable for you. Alright, you’re degraded to third-level servant and go back to where you were!”

This exactly hit the spot because Ke’er was willing to be degraded as long as she could return to Changfeng’s side. Therefore, she only slightly curtseyed Wang shi who snickered up her sleeve and waved to let steward Mama help Ke’er pack her staff.

After that, Liu Kun’s wife whispered to Wang shi’s ear, then strengthened up and shouted, “Which one is Mei’er? Stand out!”

Mei’er bit her teeth and squared her shoulders, curtseying to Wang shi. The latter squinted at her and said in an icy voice, “What a manner! I heard you’ve been putting on air, bickering with Mama, scolding sisters, even turning a cold shoulder to the young lady!”

Mei’er tried hard to constrain herself from trembling and answered, “My Madam…I…I didn’t. It’s just the rules here are different from where I was, so I reasoned with them but never quarreled.”

Wang shi glared at her and heavily tapped the chair arm when the Mama standing aside immediately stepped forward and slapped right in her face, fair as white jade, swelled at once. The Mama cursed, “You bitch, how dare you talk back to Madam. Where did you learn your manners? Your face will be torn up on one more sentence!”

Wang shi snorted and took a glance at Liu Kun’s wife, who picked up the hint and announced loudly, “Mei’er shall not receive monthly allowance for six months and be degraded to third-level servant… Pull her out and give her ten planks!”

Upon the words, the crying Mei’er was dragged out. Wang shi lifted the tea cup and elegantly stirred the tea-leaves in slow motion. Minglan sat there without any movement while Rulan looked really enjoy the scene, pulling Minglan’s sleeve from time to time and saying, “Learn this. Don’t cry and ask mother for help in the future!” Minglan squeezed a smile, her little hand clenched tight in the sleeve.

Finally, Wang shi ordered others to pull Yinxing out and looked her up and down with sharp eyes. Yinxing shivered in terror, and as her knees turned powerless, she kneed down in no time. Wang shi said calmly, “You were at my place. Since you miss there so bad, you’d better go back with me.”  

Yinxing perceived the irony and mercilessness in the words and became so scared that she kept kowtowing but didn’t manage to speak a work. Smile of contempt was hanging on the face of Liu Kin’s wife who had Yinxing pulled out.

After clearing up these pioneers, Wang shi rebuked the rest of the servants and then left with Rulan. The forced smile looked as if pinned on Minglan’s face. She thanked Wang shi numerous times and saw them to the door, after which the House of Clear Dusk became as silent as a graveyard.   Mei’er was carried back in a stretcher. Minglan asked Danju to take some medicine from Fang Mama’s room to apply on Meier’s wound while she herself stayed alone quietly in the room, lying low on the bed and staring vacantly on the ceiling.  

At noon, she went to the Hall of Peaceful Ages to have lunch. The grandmother and granddaughter had their lunch in silence. Seeing Minglan look fatigue and listless, Old Madam didn’t say nothing and just let her be. After the lunch, Minglan had a cup of tea, still in silence, but showed no sign of returning to her own house. Staring into the void for a while, she, like a drooping-eared puppy that had lost its way and finally found the way home, groped to Old Madam’s bedroom, took off the shoes, and rolled into the thermos bed of Old Madam Sheng like a squirrel. Fully dressed, the little body sprawled into the quilt.

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Old Madam Sheng felt amused and followed in to check Minglan who covered her head totally in the quilt and, hearing the noise, revealed a crack of the quilt to take a look. Then a small hand reached out from the quilt and slightly pulled Old Madam Sheng’s sleeve, a smothered voice followed, “Grandma, take a noon nap with me.”

Old Madam Sheng, who had planned to go to the Buddhist hall, sighed hearing the words, then sat on the bedside, revealed the quilt corner and dug out the little head, saying mildly, “Everything is done?” Minglan nodded in frustration.

Old Madam asked again, “You’re scared?” Minglan raised her head and shook numbly, “No. I expected this would happen long ago. What’s done is done.” Old Madam Sheng stroked the granddaughter’s hair to console her, “But why are you being so limp?”

Minglan buried her head in the grandmother’s arms. As her whole head was stuffed in the clothes emanating aroma of sandalwood, which reminded her of her birth mother in previous life, she felt a twinge of melancholy and said in a low voice, “Grandma, am I a bad girl? I deliberately winked at their improper behaviors. Every time Ke’er fell ill, I let the news pass on to third elder brother. I also let Yinxing knew the time when big brother went back from school. The first time Yinxing was scolded by Liu Mama for running out, I stood up for her to mislead her that I was on her side; this is why she dared to bother big brother time and time again! ... Yinxing always rummaged my stuff and spied on what happened in the Hall of Peaceful Ages. I began to hate her long ago! I know the thing Madam resents most is servants seducing big brother. As long as the matter goes wild, she will sure give a tough lesson to Yinxing; I also know that Concubine Lin sent Ke’er to me because she didn’t like the maid and when there is an opportunity, Madam will definitely send Ke’er back to disgust Concubine Lin… I’m so calculative, but…I don’t want to be such a person!”

As she spoke, her nose went sour and tears fell off. She felt that she became increasingly alike to villains on television.

Minglan buried herself in Old Madam’s arm and couldn’t stop crying. The tears wetted a large patch on the clothes of Old Madam who lovingly stroked her slim shoulders, held her in arms and rocked as if she was still a small baby, persuading gently, “It’s alright; it’s alright. Don’t cry, my baby. No one in this world don’t want to live as a frank person. Who doesn’t want a peaceful life? But how many can?”

Minglan perceived the helplessness and vicissitudes in Old Madam’s tone and felt gloomy. Since the first time the four girls created troubles, she began to contemplate as to how to clear them up. Jiu’er, though liked to probe into others’ affairs, was a well-behaved girl, and her mother was the general manager of Sheng Mansion’s inner yard. It’d be better not to mess with her. Mei’er was ill-tempered and easy to deal with. Supposedly, she would suffer a lot. Ke’er could be used as a bait and a smoke bomb to drag in Wang shi who would immediately send her away. The most troublesome was Yinxing who had been sent over by Madam. Upsetting her meant upsetting Madam, so the best solution was to let Madam tackle the problem and the pawn was Changbai…  

Minglan hated herself so much that when she looked up, tears crawled all over her face. She choked, “Big brother is so nice to me, but I even dragged him in, I…I…”  

“You have no other choice!” Old Madam Sheng cut in suddenly, saying in a plain tone.

Minglan was surprised, witnessing Old Madam calmly order Fang Mama fetch her a basin of water and a handkerchief. Turning around and noticing Minglan’s stunned face, she said as if nothing happened, “If Changbai was your biological brother, would you conceal your real self and act scrupulously?”

Of course not, she would directly turn to her brother for help. Minglan immediately understood.

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