Published at 20th of March 2019 09:37:58 AM

Chapter 52

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The Occupational Quality of an Amateur Eavesdropper (1)

It was already at dusk when Minglan came back to Sheng Mansion in Youyang. He Hongwen left a big pack of herbal medicine-dried tangerine peels for her. Minglan gave half pack of the sweet and cool taste medicine to Pinlan who wasn't in her room and her servant faltered that first young lady was back here, her original family. Minglan at once detected something unusual and hurried back to where Shulan had lived. The moment she entered the inner room, she found Shulan, with traces of tears on her pale withered face, was lying unconscious in bed like an old woman while Pinlan was pacing up and down restlessly in the room clasping her fists. In a hurry, Minglan asked what had happened and Pinlan, biting her teeth, explained the whole story.

It turned out that Sun Zhigao's mistress outside the family was pregnant. Sun's mother and Sun were so overjoyed that they decided to let the mistress move in. Shulan was mild and weak in nature, but her mama, a decisive woman, immediately took Shulan back once she smelled what was going to happen.

In the afternoon, Sun's mother broke into Sheng Mansion, arrogantly commanding Shulan's permission of the lover's moving in. First Old Madam Sheng didn't a bit compromise and gave her only one option: keep the son but not the lover. Sun's mother laughed grimly and, waving her sleeves, left.

Pinlan was so livid that she stormed out and spat out cursing to a withering willow tree for an hour. Minglan didn't knew what to say to persuade her, so she just stood by her side until the sky fell dark. The two returned to the room, low in spirits. Just reaching the door, they heard from inside mournful crying and Li shi's persuasion containing helplessness.

"…After we got married, my mother-in-law has warned me that I mustn't disturb my husband during his learning time. Every month…less than three or five days…criticized me of being incapable, so I allow him to take concubines…but he claimed those were not interesting…What should I do?" Shulan's sobbing and complaining entered into Minglan's ears discontinuously. Pinlan was an innocent girl, only understanding half of it while Minglan understood everything.

Shulan had an ordinary look and weak character. Sun Zhigao, her husband, took pride in being a talented and elegant scholar and looked down upon his wife and other ordinary concubines, so he was easily enticed by a "periphery" woman with both pretty face and some learning.

Minglan gently sighed. This world had always given men more tolerance. This time, Shulan was very likely to suffer.

As expected, a few days later, Sheng Mansion was thrown into a mangled mess by several waves of people. Some were Sun's relatives, coming to intercede for Sun; some others were females from third family, coming to enjoy the scene; more others were reputed old seniors in the county, coming as mediators. Anyway, all of them came with a similar purpose: Asking Shulan to be a general wife and allow the lover move in. Even if the mistress gave birth to a boy, the son had to be raised up under Shulan's name.

Sheng family didn't yield a bit. With time, rumors grew rampant. All criticized Sheng family for having nurtured a jealous and intolerant daughter. Sun Zhigao never showed up to take his wife home and even let the dancer-prostitute move in, treating her as a real wife, either inside and outside the family. Gradually, Li shi couldn't stand this. Only First Old Madam Sheng maintained silent like a rock, never expressing her advice no matter who came to persuade her.

Half a month later, First Old Madam suddenly ordered that she wanted to meet the dancer-prostitute. Sun's mother thought Sheng family finally gave up, so she joyfully took the dancer-prostitute to visit Sheng Mansion the next day. To her surprise, First Old Madam didn't say a word, only examining the dancer-prostitute from the bottom to the top many times. After asking a few questions, she walked inside her room. Sun's mother was sent out before she realized what had happened. 

On this day, Pinlan was watching Minglan tracing embroider pattern on underwear, absent-minded and constantly looking outside when suddenly a girl servant rushed in, whispering something to Pinlan who then at once jumped up like a spring and pulled Minglan to desperately run out. Minglan nearly tripped down and had no time to pick up the embroider stretcher that fell on the ground, following Pinlan without any idea of what was going on.

They stumbled all the way through flower beds and woods, finding the road getting narrower and finally there wasn't a road at all but just a trail. Treading the grassy muddy trail to further and further away and bypassing the several rooms of the main house, they arrived at a dim thatched cottage. 

Minglan finally let go of Pinlan's hand, puffing, "I can walk no more. What on earth are you going to do?"

Excitement shined on the red little face of Pinlan, "After the visiting of Sun's mother that day, grandma locked herself up in the Buddhist hall for many days. She only spoke a few words with your grandma and was even unwilling to meet my mother, so I ordered someone to watch over here. Today, my grandma suddenly called up my mother. If I didn't get it wrong, they are going to discuss about my sister."

Minglan nodded in approval, feeling her cousin had an analytical mind of logic, so she asked, "So what?"

Pinlan screamed, ferociously twisting Minglan's sleeve, "It's life-deciding for my sister. You said so what? You deserve a good beating for saying that! Now I'm going to eavesdrop their conversation. Will you go with me?"

Minglan was so surprised that her eyes almost dropped out. For young ladies like them, they shouldn't inquire about other's privacy, let alone eavesdropping. Alright, she herself did so several times, but those were God's will!

Minglan said with worry, "I don't think it's…proper. How can we overhear others?" At sight of Pinlan's unhappy face, Minglan hurriedly added, "Besides, how? Will your grandma shout out loud with window wide open?"

Pinlan waved her arm, "Don't worry. Here is a dog hole. When I was young and grounded in the Buddhist hall, I used to get out from here. It's a good coverage. Luckily, this time grandma will be talking in the Buddhist hall, otherwise I can think of no methods. I regard you as my real sister. We should share difficulties and fortune together. Before, you always accompanied me to get over punishment. A good friend you are, so I don't forget to invite you to this fortune!"

Minglan staggered, almost falling down. Seriously? Sprawling through a dog hole and eavesdropping were so-called fortune?

Pinlan ignored Minglan's quivering protest and quickly cleared away weedy vines near the dog hole, revealing a one-meter hole. She forced Minglan with her eyes and at the same time dragged her towards inside the dog hole. Minglan looked reluctant and, after Pinlan entered, lifted up sleeves and dress hem to sprawl forward like a dog biting mud. After a while, Pinlan, going in front, straighten up and pulled Minglan out. Minglan looked back, finding that the hole they had just came out of was blocked by a large water tank and weeds.

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Pinlan struggled to move the tank back, "I specially ordered them not to use this tank to hoard water."

Then the two girls sneaked through a yard and flashed into the inner courtyard with caution. Pinlan, familiar with the route, slipped through a narrow door. Then it was all dark. Pinlan squatted while Minglan clumsily followed after, sprawling like a dog into something like a closet.

Pinlan leaned over to whisper to Minglan, voice as low as a mosquito buzzing, "This is the place behind the Buddha's shrine. Relax. The room is big."

Minglan gradually became flustered, feeling today she was indeed acting recklessly. She reached out to twist Pinlan. They lied still on stomach and waited for a while when suddenly they heard sound of curtain being lifted up and then Li shi's ordering servants out. It seemed that Li shi and her mother-in-law-first old madam sat far from the Buddha's shrine.

Then Li shi gently said, "Old madam, did you call me up…for…?"

First Old Madam Sheng replied, "I've been thinking about it all these days and I decide to let Shulan get a 'negotiated divorce'."

Minglan was stunned and felt in the darkness that Pinlan's breath became heavier. They heard Li shi's gentle sobbing, "Old madam, think twice. Shulan is still young. How…how should she spend the rest of her life?"

After quite a while they heard First Old Madam's dry and calm voice, "How come I'm willing to see this happen? But I've been pondering about this for days and nights. There's no other choice. Just end it when she is young, so probably there is still hope for her in the future."

Li shi gently sobbed. First Old Madam continued, "The life for a woman depends on no more than three men, her father, husband and son. You've seen with your own eyes what kind of persons Sun and his mother are. How can Shulan live up with such a husband and mother-in-low for her whole life? It'd be better if she had a son depending on whom she would finally get through the hard life. However, now, she has no one to depend on. After you and I and her father pass away, and with a brother and sister-in-law not so close, how could she continue her life?"

Li shi could no more hold it back and cried out, "My poor Shulan. It's all my fault. I was so silly that I chose that damn wretch! I thought they were poor and would treat Shulan well since we had done a lot for them. Who expected…who expected that they were worse than animal?!"

First Old Madam sighed, "I felt pity for Shulan at first and planned to wait to see how the bastard would react. As you saw, Shulan has been back for many days, and he never dropped by! I'm expecting nothing from him. Now even in presence of all seniors of his wife, he dares to humiliate your daughter. If in the future, he really gets an official ranking, how far he would go? Just let it go. Be wise and stop counting on him."

Pinlan grabbed Minglan's wrist tight, making Minglan feel painful, but she understood it, so she unsparingly twisted Pinlan too.

Li shi mourned, "I'm not grudging about losing the bastard but only fear that our family's reputation might be ruined. With no face saved, what if they don't want to end it peacefully and insist on repudiating wife?"

First Old Madam sneered grimly, "The wretch has been so spoiled for years that he forgets how insignificant he is. He believes he gains respect from others all on his own. Hem, what an ignorant person! It's all about money and sweet words. How come we be afraid of him? To deal with this in private, we have manpower; to do it publicly, we have money. If he wants a lawsuit, don't we have connections in the official circle? If he gets a peaceful divorce with Shulan, we'll leave him half of the dowry. Otherwise, hem, let's throw the Sun family to where it was!"

Li shi listened, and after a moment of silence, she still looked a bit hesitant. First Old Madam added, "I thought no matter which of his concubines gave birth to a child, it's alright to make it Shulan's legal child. Yet, that bitch, as you witness, is too slutty and eloquent and really good at manipulating men with sweetened words. Would she possibly lead a peaceful life? If she gave birth to a son in the future, Shulan would be eaten up by her!"

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