Published at 19th of May 2019 10:33:11 AM

Chapter 90

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A Clean Sweep (2)

When Laifu, who was the steward of Sheng Mansion, came to the entrance of Department of Supervision to look for Sheng Hong, Sheng Hong was planning to go to a restaurant and have a drink with newly-arrived young officials in a bid to make friendly contacts with them and expand his own influence. But Laifu’s sudden arrival interrupted his plans, he had to rush back to the Sheng Mansion.

Molan was locked up so that Concubine Lin couldn’t collude with her daughter or play a trick. So Concubine Lin decided to wait at the gate of Sheng Mansion and take the initiative to complain tearfully about Wang shi’s favoritism. But Hai shi was one step ahead of Concubine Lin. She had ordered Laifu to lead Sheng Hong into Sheng Mansion through a side entrance. Therefore, Sheng Hong went straight to the House of Clear Dusk to see Minglan.

After entering the door, Sheng Hong saw Minglan leaning back on the soft couch with a clear handprint on her white face. She seemed to be frightened, trembling in fear and shedding tears quietly, her fingers grasping his sleeves tightly. An articulate maid came up and narrated what had happened to Minglan with tears. Sheng Hong’s face clouded over when he looked around at this messy room and saw broken cups and broken bowls scattered all over the floor.

“Where is Molan?” Sheng Hong asked seriously.

Hai shi curtsied to Sheng Hong and answered in a low voice, “Concubine Lin was afraid that Molan would be wronged, so she tried desperately to stop Madam taking Molan away. Without any other means, I took Molan to my room and waited for you to arbitrate this dispute.”

Sheng Hong nodded with satisfaction. But then when he recalled the resentment between Wang shi and Concubine Lin, he showed hesitation on his face and wondered if it was a trick. Hai shi glanced at him and said softly, “I arrived at the House of Clear Dusk so late that I didn’t know clearly about this incident. Father, you can ask Molan what really happened so as to avoid wronging her.”

Sheng Hong agreed with her. He asked the maids to take good care of Minglan, and then walked out. Hai shi immediately went after him and called Dangju and Luzhi to go with her. Soon they came to the main house. By this time, Hai shi had already arranged everything.

Inside the main room, Wang shi sat in the host seat, stroking her chest and gasping for air, Liukun’s wife standing beside her. Concubine Lin, Molan, Changfeng, Concubine Xiang and Changdong stood in the middle of the room. There was no servant in the room, only a few loyal servants standing at the door. Sheng Hong knew the truth that domestic shame should not be published, so he secretly praised Hai shi’s cautious arrangements in mind.

Sheng Hong walked in without saying a word. When Concubine Lin, who was wiping her tears with a handkerchief, saw Sheng Hong passing by, she reached out and tried to grab his arm while crying, “Master--” Before she finished her words, Hai shi took a step forward and pulled Concubine Lin back, smiling, “Master specially put his important business aside and rushed back to deal with this incident, just let him talk first.”

Concubine Lin said in a trembling voice, her eyes filled with tears, “Young Madam, can’t I speak? I just want to defend my daughter. I can’t bear to see her wronged.”

Hai shi smiled with a gentle expression on her face, “Today I invited you all here to make things clear to Master. We are of the same family tied by flesh and blood. Everything can be solved. If some of you did something wrong, Master will make a proper disposition. If it is just a misunderstanding, we can sort it out and resume harmony. But Concubine Lin, I heard that you arrived there after Madam as I did. I’m afraid that you also didn’t know what happened between Molan and Minglan. So now… What do you want to say?”

Concubine Lin choked up. Though Hai shi hadn’t said anything about the conflict between Molan and Minglan, all her hopes were shattered. Now she was even not in a position to cry out grievances for her daughter.

Sheng Hong went forward and sat down in the left-hand seat. Then he looked at Molan up and down and found that she was in a good condition without any injuries, though she looked a little flustered. But when he looked at Changdong, Sheng Hong frowned because his youngest son was hurt with his right hand bandaged and several blisters on his face, looking somewhat painful. At last, Sheng Hong looked at Changfeng and suddenly got angry at the sight of his hesitant and overcautious look. Sheng Hong lifted his hand and threw a teacup toward Changfeng. In the next second the teacup hit the floor at Changfeng’s feet and smashed into pieces. He was startled and backed up a few steps.

Sheng Hong scolded, “You little punk! Why don’t you study hard in your study? You always indulge in womanizing, and now you are even involved in the affairs of the inner Mansion. Don’t you feel ashamed? You read so many books written by saints, but never get any wisdom from them. You are quite useless! Get out of here! I will deal with you later!”

Changfeng turned pale with fear and staggered out of the room.

After lecturing his son, Sheng Hong turned to Molan and snapped, “Molan, kneel down!”

Molan tamely knelt down with tears in her eyes and immediately explained away for herself, “Father, I desire you will make a penetrating judgment. This time I just had a spat with Minglan. I got tetchy and lost my self-control when I grappled with her. But I didn't mean to hurt her. Then Madam came and wanted to enforce the domestic discipline on me. Mother couldn’t bear to see me punished by Madam, so she raised an uproar. Father, I know I was wrong. Please punish me, but don’t blame my mother and brother. They…They just did that to protect me.” With that, she began to cry sadly, looking pathetic.

Sheng Hong’s face softened a little when he thought that children often lost their head in fighting. He frowned, “But what others said to me is different from yours.”

Concubine Lin covered her face with the sleeves and cried, “They are Minglan’s maids. Of course they will show partiality for their lady.”

Sheng Hong hesitated. Hai shi cast a glance at him and suddenly broke into a soft laughter. She said respectfully to Sheng Hong, “Father, Brother Changdong was present throughout the conflict. You can ask him what really happened.” Sheng Hong was prudent and cautious, and he seldom decided a case without hearing the other side since he took up the official position. He thought Hai shi was right and said to Changdong at once, “Tell me what happened between your two sisters.”

Concubine Lin and Molan looked at each other and their face changed.

Concubine Xiang lowered her head and pinched Changdong’s arm secretly. The sleeves covered up her movement so nobody noticed that. Changdong got her hint and came forward with his head bowed. Then he raised his head and methodically told his father what had happened in sobbing voice, though there were no tears on his face, “…I’m about to leave the capital with Sister Minglan. A few hours ago, I was afraid that I would forget to take something important, so I went to ask Sister Minglan what else I should take before we set off to Youyang. Just as Xiaotao served me a bowl of hot tea, Sister Molan came…”

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Changdong wasn’t a boy of rapid speech, but he gave a detailed account of the incident. Every detail and every action were clearly described, and he even mentioned the obscenities that Molan said to Minglan, such as “you fucking bitch” and “you shameless slut”. Although he spoke in fragmented sentences, his detailed description gained Sheng Hong’s trust. Concubine Lin tried to interrupt him several times but was stopped by Hai shi before she could even start.

Sheng Hong’s face gradually twitched in anger. When Changdong said that Molan overtook Minglan and slapped her to prevent her from leaving, Sheng Hong couldn’t hold his anger back anymore. He slammed the table with the flat of his hand and snarled with rage, “You wretch!”

Molan trembled with fear and lost the courage to defend herself. Concubine Lin immediately knelt down and cried, “Young Master Changdong, all people in Sheng Mansion know that you get along well with Lady Minglan. She often makes cotton-padded shoes and handkerchiefs for you. Your Sister Molan neglects you and has never looked after you. But after all, you shouldn’t…shouldn’t… Are you trying to hurt your Sister Molan?”

Changdong realized that Concubine Lin was accusing him of lying and favoring Minglan. With his face suddenly flushing scarlet, he knelt down to Sheng Hong and straightened up his neck to say, “I promise all I said is true! If I uttered one word of untruth, I will…I will…” Changdong said loudly with a clear conscience, “I will fail every imperial exam in my life!”

“Don’t talk nonsense!” Hai shi rushed over to cover Changdong’s mouth with her hands and scolded softly, “You shouldn’t say that.”

Concubine Xiang also dropped to her knees, crying and kowtowing to Sheng Hong, “Master, no one knows a son better than his father. You know Changdong best. He is… He is an honest boy. He can’t even speak fluently. It’s impossible for him to tell a lie!”

For those who were interested in official career, such an oath could be compared with the malicious curse “your family will die”. Though Sheng Hong was annoyed by his youngest son’s impulsive temperament, he was convinced that Changdong had told the truth. So he showed a gentle expression and comforted this boy patiently. Then he asked maids to help Concubine Xiang and Changdong back to their house. Before walking out of the door, Changdong said in a choked voice, “…Later, Sister Molan even picked up a piece of broken china and tried to cut Sister Minglan’s face…”

After speaking that, he stepped out of the room. All the people in the room changed their faces. If a girl only fought with her sister, people would only think that she was uncouth. But if a girl wanted to ruin her sister’s face, people would think that she was black-hearted. Liu Kun’s wife was quick of eye and deft of hand. She caught Molan’s right hand and quickly turned it over. Under the lights, everyone could see some slight scratches on Molan’s thumb, index and middle fingers clearly, which were obviously caused by holding a sharp-edged object. They soon came to the same conclusion that Molan really had the intention of disfiguring Minglan.

Sheng Hong eyed Molan coldly and his gaze was like an arrow stabbing into her heart. Then he said in a low voice, “Molan, I want to ask you one last time. Do you admit what Changdong said?”

Molan’s face was as pale as a ghost. She shivered violently as if she would fall in a faint at any time. She looked up and saw her father, who had always loved her dearly, staring at her with a cruel glitter in his eyes, her lip quivering as she whispered, “Yes.” Then she suddenly fainted and fell down to the floor. Concubine Lin wailed and rushed to hold Molan in her arms.

Sheng Hong turned livid with rage and didn’t cast a look at them; instead, he asked the servants to lift Molan up and intended to punish her according to the domestic discipline of Sheng family. Concubine Lin kept crying, waving her arms wildly to stop the servants from taking Molan away, and said harshly, “Even if Molan was the one who struck first, Master, you should ask her why she did that. Or you can ask Madam what injustice she has done. She is unfair!”

“Bah! That’s nonsense!” Wang shi’s patience had been taxed to the limit, so she finally shouted abuse, “You daughter is good-for-nothing. How dared you accuse me of being unfair! You are a bitch and so is your daughter. You two are very much alike!”

Hai shi almost wanted to heave a sigh because Wang shi’s words spoiled their forthcoming victory. She suddenly recalled what Minglan had said to her when they had played together — “I’m not afraid of clever opponents but afraid of stupid teammates.” At this moment, she felt that this sentence was perfectly right. But considering that it was disrespectful to her mother-in-law, she stopped thinking about it.

As expected, Sheng Hong frowned when he heard Wang shi’s abuse. Concubine Lin crawled on her hands and knees toward Sheng Hong, and tugged at lower hem of his gown. She cried sadly, “Master, I know that Madam always looks down upon me. But in the past twenty years, I bowed my head and knelt down to serve her tea. I attended upon Madam with all my heart and tried my best to satisfy her. Even if Madam still dislikes me, for Master’s sake, she shouldn’t vent her resentment on Molan. Anyway, Molan is Master’s daughter. Even though she’s not a patch on Rulan, she is on equal footing with Minglan. Molan is fifteen and her marriage should be put on the agenda. Today the distinguished guest came to visit Madam but she didn’t ask Molan to meet the guest. Rulan and Minglan have been both promised to good men. But Molan, my poor daughter, she’s given the cold shoulder by Madam and not engaged yet. It is for this reason that she got angry and picked a quarrel with Minglan. I know she has done wrong but it’s excusable! Master, the whole people in Sheng Mansion are trying to walk over me and my daughter. Please help us!”

While she was speaking, tears streamed down her beautiful face. Concubine Lin was weeping in grief, which stunned Sheng Hong. Wang shi trembled with anger. She pointed at Concubine Lin and said in a shaking voice, “You, You… You are such a shameless woman! Marchioness Yongchang only wanted to see Minglan. What does her decision have to do with me? She doesn’t want Molan to be her daughter-in-law. Is it also my fault?”

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