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Published at 21st of March 2019 06:44:57 AM


Chapter 58

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New Mansion and Newcomer

With the regulation of maritime climate, the capital in November was extremely cold. Just after lunch, Fang Mama began to turn on the ground heater. In evening, Minglan and her grandma slept together in the thermal room. Warm it was, the air was very dry which Minglan wasn’t used to and had to woke up many times to drink tea in midnight. Even so, she could still feel the dryness in her mouth and tongue. Waking up the next morning, Minglan listened to Fang Mama talking in a daze.

The capital was a best place with moderate land that was near to the Emperor. In addition, imperial censors boasted sharp eyes and ears and a well-developed saliva system. Sheng Hong was a cautious man, so he assigned the best row of rooms, still named Hall of Peaceful Ages, to Old Madam Sheng. Wang shi and he himself lived in the main house while Concubine Lin’s Forested Pavilion was still located in the west, next to the small courtyard of Changfeng. Changbai had an independent courtyard which was planned to be used as bridal house.

The Sheng Mansion in the capital was not as spacious as that in Deng Prefecture. The three young ladies weren’t able to live in separate houses, so a new patch of spacious yard was opened up to build three rows of side houses which were roughly separated by fences and screen walls. Then shelter rooms and corridor rooms were built around each row of house respectively for girl and woman servants. Thus, they all had a quite nice half-independent courtyard. The former Luxuriant Pavilion suggested Hualan’s name and Molan and Rulan disliked this name long ago, so this time they made their own names; Molan’s was the House of Mountain Moon, Rulan’s was the House of Carefree, and Minglan’s remained the same.

Minglan was in a daze but Cuiwei and Danju remembered everything. One of them collected luggage to move from the Hall of Peaceful Age to the House of Clear Dusk while the other commanded girl and woman servants to lift, wash and brush things. Only after a whole morning did they finally finish all this. Old Madam Sheng was concerned about it, so she took Minglan to check around in person. Wang shi accompanied them, a bit nervous, and was relieved only after seeing Old Madam nod with satisfaction. 

The House of Clear Dusk in the capital had three bigger rooms; the main room in the middle and two wing rooms on the left and right respectively. Minglan preferred to have private space, so she specially ordered to have the bedroom cut off into two parts with Treasure Racks and curtains, turning the right-wing room into a study room. Danju and Xiaotao opened up luggage cases, cleared up the books and ornaments inside one by one, and then put them in order as Minglan wished.

Rulan came to visit Minglan before they finished the cleaning and arranging. Since they’ve just arrived in the capital, Rulan, by her nature, couldn’t make new friends so soon and on the other hand, tired of bickering with Molan, so now she had a whole stomach of words to tell Minglan. After Danju served a bowl of hot Maojian tea, Rulan couldn’t wait but pushed Minglan into the inner room.

“Sixth younger sister, don’t you notice that this time forth elder sister is unhappy?” After a few words of greeting, Rulan started to pour out what was on her mind. 

Minglan pondered for a while and answered with hesitation, “She seems alright. I think she’s a bit on something. At noon, she came here, had a look at my room, and then left without talking too much.” This was strange. Molan cherished her face. Regardless of her opinion, she would always act friendly and find something to say.

Rulan displayed the expression of “I said so” and secretly said in a low voice, “During the time you were not here, she greatly irritated Princess Pingning.”

In theory, except for crown prince and princes too young, all other princes of age were sent to remote area—the favored to richer places while the disliked to poor places. However, at present the situation was full of uncertainty. The crown prince was yet to be decided and several adult princes stayed in the capital under the acquiescence of the Emperor. This sixth prince, ranked not too high nor too low, was entitled as Junwang, Ruler of Daliang.

T/N: There are different ranks of title of nobility. From high to low, they are Crown Prince who would succeed to the throne in the future, Qinwang then Junwang.




Last year when the Emperor celebrated his sixty’s birthday, sixth prince took with him a row of three sons to congratulate the Emperor. Third prince who hadn’t been able to produce sons really envied him. Especially the youngest son, around four or five years old, that was chubby and adorable gained most love from third prince. Sixth prince valued fraternal relations and his wife was also a considerate woman, so they often took their youngest son to visit third prince.

“Oh, I see. When I was in Jinling, I heard that third prince intended to adopt a son. Is it this boy—sixth prince’s son?” Minglan understood at once, but then she got confused again, “But…what does it have anything to do with forth elder sister? This is domestic affair of the imperial family. How could we intervene?”

Rulan swayed her head complacently, “Sixth prince has a daughter of marriageable age. The Emperor’s birthday is around the corner and sixth princess (TN: Here it refers to the legitimate wife of sixth prince) came to the capital with a daughter and a son.”

Minglan thought about it for a while and asked tentatively, “Do they have profound relations with Junzhu Pingning?”

Rulan patted on Minglan’s shoulder and smiled, “You’re really smart, sixth younger sister. On that day, Junzhu Pingning held a dinner party. Mother took me and Molan there. Molan was so eager to please Junzhu Pingning with conspicuous sweetened words and flattering compliments. To her surprise, Junzhu Pingning ignored her but kept talking with sixth princess and her daughter. When we got back home, Madam told Master about this and Master reprimanded and grounded her for half a month. Hahaha…”

“This…this is too embarrassing.” Minglan could imagine the scene and felt embarrassed. No wonder she found after coming back that Sheng Hong seemed to be stricter towards Molan.

Currently, the Emperor was losing his power while third prince could legally take over the crown as long as he had a son. The political party of sixth prince instantly got more powerful. Junzhu Pingning intended to fuel up the hot stove and aimed for this Xianzhu Jiacheng to be her daughter-in-law. By careful comparison, Molan was never a match for the Xianzhu in terms of family background.

T/N: Ranks of title of nobility for females—Princess, Junzhu, Xianzhu.

Rulan took delight in this incident and planned to share the joy with someone, but to her surprise, Minglan didn’t echo her but put on a depressed face, so Rulan frowned and asked, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t tell me you feel sorry for forth elder sister!”

Minglan gave her a bitter smile, “Fifth elder sister, I’m feeling sorry for us. Though right now the shame is on forth elder sister, but we couldn’t get away from it. When people talk about it, they would say daughters from Sheng family aren’t well-educated.”

Rulan was took over by astonishment in an instant. Thinking about it twice, she agreed with Minglan’s words. No wonder recently when she attended tea parties or poem parties, those ladies from official families were reluctant to talk with her and their speeches sounded sarcastic. She had thought they aimed against Molan, but in fact…It turned out that she also fell victim because of this incident! Rulan hit the roof, “This…this b…!”

With the word that must be held in mouth, Rulan’s face turned purple. Minglan hurried to persuade her, “Be quiet; stop talking nonsense. Now we live near one another. You may be heard.”


Rulan took a hard shot at the table and spat, “It’s okay. She went to the Forested Pavilion just now. Hem! If she tried to make connections with them again, I’m afraid she’ll make more scenes of herself!”

Minglan watched with distress. The bowl that was shaken off onto the ground belonged to a whole set.

......

In the Forested Pavilion, a gilded incent burner with Yunfu patterns was lit up on the bed table. Concubine Lin, looking at the depressed daughter, gathered the muff made of grey mouse fur and frowned, “Just being scolded by master, do you have to put on this look?” 

Molan played with a sachet embroidered with characters meaning “auspicious, career and longevity” and took a glance at Concubine Lin, “This is the time first that I was punished so badly. It’s so embarrassing! But for Old Madam’s coming back, I’m afraid I’m still grounded now.”  

Concubine Lin sighed, “You useless thing know only how to draw a long face but nothing of calculation. Forget it. You have your own fate. Since you’re so incapable, I’ll just marry you to an ordinary family.”

Molan flushed with shame and refuted, “That Xianzhu is only medium in terms of appearance and character. My poor Brother Yuanruo.”

Concubine Lin remained silent for a while before saying, “She’s blessed since born and this is better than anything else! Stop thinking about Qi Heng. I’ve let your third elder brother collect relevant news. Junzhu Pingning is a snobbish woman so she is busy contacting with the prospering family of sixth prince. Forget it. Right, I told you to visit Minglan. Did you go?”

Molan raised up her head with no interest, “The plain furnish is exquisitely arranged. There are few valuable things. By the cases moved in and out, I couldn’t tell what’s in them. Mom, we can’t defeat Minglan since Old Madam loves her so much. Why bother to try?”

Concubine Lin heavily thumped on the brick bed and cursed with her eyes glared out of rage, “You’re really a useless thing! You made yourself a fool when you shouldn’t but draw back when you should give a shot! This time when Minglan went back to hometown, she must have tired all means to please the relatives there so that everyone in your big uncle’s family like her so much. Look at you. I told you to coax Pinlan to be your friend, but you disliked her, saying she is ignorant and illiterate! Look what the situation is now. Aren’t you jealous seeing that she carried back loads of gifts home? You and she are of same origin and her mother is a woman from countryside but yours is from an official family. In addition, you have your brother to back you up. You’re supposed to be ten times better than her, but now things go the other way around!”

Molan suddenly turned around and huffed, “Old Madam is stubborn. What can I do since she just doesn’t like me?”

After Concubine Lin calmed down, she said slowly, amidst the smoke floating up from the incense burner, “Judging by her attitude, I’m afraid Minglan’s marriage is already decided. As for Rulan, Madam has made preparation long ago. When Wang’s brother comes back to the capital after he finishes the tenure outside, I’m afraid, my daughter, only your marriage will still be in suspense.”    


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Hearing this, Molan began to worry. She looked at her mother nervously, and Concubine Lin turned around to smile at her, saying, “If only to find an ordinary scholar or a son from official family, it’s quite easy since your father and brothers know a lot of them. However, if you want a man with good character, great wealth and high ranking, that’s really difficult! I’m wondering what kind of family Old Madam has found for Minglan.”  

......

Looking at the old woman crying in front of her, Minglan was perplexed, and numbly looked to Fang Mama. The old woman dressed as a woman servant. Her dark red fine-grained silk jacket was covered with a black vest. She held Minglan’s hand and cried, “Young lady, Concubine Wei passed away early and I was so useless that I fell ill at that time, so I wasn’t able to take care of your ladyship!...”

Minglan struggled to understand her, still in a daze.

Fang Mama coughed and said, “Cui Mama is old and her son and daughter-in-law requested many times to take her back home for rest, so in order to fill the vacant, Madam found You Mama from the estate. She was your wet nurse so she should be able to take care of young lady better.”

Minglan nodded. In fact, she didn’t remember this You Mama at all. She could only vaguely recall the conversation she had overheard from girl servants when she pretended to be a fool. Concubine Wei was an obedient and honest person with only one loyal servant called Die’er while all other servants were greedy and bullying. Once things went wrong, they all sought their own way and never showed up again. So this You Mama…?

After others left, Fang Mama told everything, “Old Madam planned to choose a trustworthy person but since Madam have already sent this one, Old Madam didn’t turn her down.”

Minglan thought about it and suddenly asked, “Now that she lived at the estate, through whom did she get into the inner mansion?”

A young lady’s wet nurse was a plum job. She was not only well-paid but also widely respected, equally treated with Mama in charge and bossing around girl servants. This You Mama slipped away for fear of inculpation when Concubine Wei was dying, but now she came back.

Seeing that Minglan was able to ask such a question right to the point, Fang Mama felt relived and said in a low voice, “You’re such a clever girl, young lady. I heard that she wanted to come here years ago but by then there was Cui Mama taking care of you, so this time she got here by bribing to Madam’s henchman.”

Minglan continued to ask, “No other people behind it?”

Fang Mama shook her head, “Old Madam won’t tolerate this. Since she was your wet nurse, it’s sensible that she took this vacant. I carefully interrogated others. It turns out that only the recommender took some bribe. I just worry that since she was your wet nurse, you might feel restricted to scold her if she acts lazy and makes troubles.” 


Minglan smiled with the corners of her mouth tilted, “Don’t worry. I’m not a little girl and Old Madam couldn’t protect me for a life time.” Then she laughed and signed, “If I really can’t handle this, I’ll ask for help.”

After Fang Mama left, Minglan sat alone on Xiangfei bed, contemplating for a while, and said suddenly, “Call up You Mama.”

Xiaotao went out on the order. Upon entering the room, You Mama began to cry, babbling about how helpless she had been when she left and how much she missed Minglan at the estate. Minglan listened with a smile and suggested Xiaotao to fetch a stool.

You Mama wasn’t too old but just middle-aged. She had a shape face with a big mouth, looking quite cunning and forthright. When she had left, Minglan was only five years old but now Minglan was to turn thirteen. You Mama kept mentioning anecdotes when Minglan was little and how hard she had bred Minglan who just listened quietly and only after You finished her speech did Minglan start lightly, “I’m afraid I couldn’t recall all those.”

You Mama was shocked because the card of memory was her ace card, so she hurried to dry her tears and said, “Though young, you were really clever; you remembered everything once I taught you. How come you couldn’t recall?”

Minglan took over the tea cup that Danju handed her, gently stirring tea leaves with the lid. She then said in a low voice, “After Concubine Wei passed away, I fell ill and passed out for many days. There were many things that I couldn’t remember after waking up. What a pity you weren’t there for me, otherwise I might have gotten better sooner!”

You Mama looked a little embarrassed and forced a laughter, “It’s my fault that I should fall ill at that time.” She really wanted to mention things about Concubine Wei, but mama in charge had warned her in advance, so she didn’t dare to.

Minglan gently sighed, sounding a bit sad, “Those were tough days for me to come through. I drank decoctions and lay in bed every day, yet I had no one to look after me but only this stupid Xiaotao. The doctor noticed many times that I might not get through it. Luckily, thanks to Madam’s care and Old Madam’s love that I was able to keep my life.”

You Mama’s face took several turns from blue, pale to purple. Twisting the handkerchief in hand, she squeezed out a few phatic words which even herself felt dull and dry.

Minglan put the lid on cup and spread a smile, “Now everything is alright. These first-level servants in my room are all taught by Old Madam and Madam. They are most capable. With you joining us, now my little courtyard is perfect.”

You Mama was astounded and suddenly raised up her head to look at Minglan’s long and slim eyes and the soft jawline which resembled that of the concubine who had died young. Yet, they had completely different temperament. No matter what Minglan said or heard, the curvy long eyelashes didn’t move a bit like a pair of tranquil butterfly wings, and her beautiful smile was as peaceful as still water.

This simple yet elegant girl had a kind of calmness like that of a person of high ranking. You Mama was a little at loss because there was little overlap between Minglan and the timid little girl that had always followed behind her in her memory. A surge of unknown awe sprawled up along her spine.  

Minglan looked right into You Mama’s eyes, thinking: If she was smart enough, she wouldn’t make any trouble with her salary and other benefits. Be less greedy and do her part, this would end happily.

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