Chapter 144 : A Discontented Home
Translated by Gumihou
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Her mistress laughed gently, “Auntie Liu certainly is Madam Yun’s follower. However, on that invasion day, Madam Yun ran off without even a farewell word to her. To be fair, she did leave without even saying anything to her own personal maids, how could she be expected to say something to a random servant? Moreover, these people were all rescued by first madam. Let me ask you, with Madam Yun’s attitude, would she not boil over every time she thought of this matter?”
Long Yan frowned, “Surely that can’t be it. At that time, even Qiu Ling was left behind, right? That person is old madam’s most efficient maid, not to mention Feng Xian and other personal maids were all left behind. Though some of them made mistakes in front of Madam Yun, she did not explode all over them like that.” Long Yan was not at the mountain that day because she had caught a cold, and therefore could speak of the matter so calmly in front of Xue Zhi Lan.
After hearing Long Yan’s words, Xue Zhi Lan sneered, “That Feng Xian is Xu Ran Yun’s dowry maid, her family are all at Count Cheng Ming’s household. Therefore she and that mistress of hers are all locusts on the same twig and will be loyal to each other no matter what. However, Auntie Liu and the other servants in charge are different, since they have been so easily abandoned by Madam Yun. As they were rescued by first madam, there is no way their hearts would not have shifted, even as they continued to pay lip service to Madam Yun. If I had been in their place, I would have switched masters too, Xu Ran Yun herself must have realized this too.”
“S- surely something like this wouldn’t have…” Long Yan blinked rapidly, confused. Xue Zhi Lan then enunciated her next words slowly, carefully, “It all stems from a guilty conscience, understand?”
“I see,” Long Yan suddenly did see: It certainly fitted Xu Ran Yun’s character, after such an unworthy action, even if others did not think so, she would torment herself with such thoughts. No matter how deferential and respectful the other person was, her suspicious heart would lead her to see all kinds of things that were not there.
“Does madam has any orders for this one?”
Now that she knew what her mistress was talking about, Long Yan knew there will be an important assignment for her. As expected, Xue Zhi Lan sneered, “That day when Xu Ran Yun wanted to go against first madam, she refused to dirty her own hands and tried to incite disharmony several times by coming over to my place, hoping that I would lead the charge. To be honest, I was running out of ways to deflect her and was about to do her bidding.
Who would have thought that times would change so quickly? Now that she has fallen to this level, if I don’t make use of her at least once, and pay her back for trying to me as a borrowed knife, how would that be fair to either of us?”
Long Yan said nothing, she knew that her mistress must have some point to make. Sure enough, after muttering to herself for a while, Xue Zhi Lan spoke up gently, “There’s no need for you to do anything specific. Just keep a lookout for any slip-ups made by Madam Yun’s trusted people. Bring them up in front of Feng Xian to mock and ridicule her. Look out also for those servants with some skill and presence, but not yet able to rise above their station. Advice them to show their best sides to Feng Xian. As long as we can switch out a few positions, that should be good enough.”
What is that supposed to mean? Aren’t we making use of Madam Yun? Why are we fiddling around with servants and slaves? Still, Long Yan verbally gave her agreement, even though her heart was filled with misgiving. It was only when she left the house that understanding dawn on her: Madam’s plan was to make use of Xu Ran Yun’s suspicious nature to ruthlessly drive a wedge between Madam Yun and her people. Isolating her from the truly loyal.
Now that she understood this much, Long Yan sank into further confusion and misgiving: Isn’t Madam Lan’s real target the first madam? If she were to borrow Madam Yun as a knife to make the attack, isn’t it counter intuitive to weaken Madam Yun’s power? How was she to confront first madam once she’s weakened? Isn’t this just too ridiculous?
Though she was occupied by doubts, Long Yan knew her mistress’s thoughts were several levels deeper than her own. There’s bound to be a reason behind her orders, there’s no need for a lowly maid like her to ‘Add legs onto a snake painting’. Mistress never did like stupid maids. As long as she pretended to understand and carry out her mission properly, all would be well.
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“Welcome back, master.”
That afternoon when Duan Tingxuan came back, the first thing he saw upon entering Spring Breeze Court were two female servants, they greeted him with bowed heads before leaving. He spotted Xing’er and asked, “Those people don’t belong to this court, right? What are they here for?”
Xing’er shrugged, “How would this maid know? They want to look for madam. This maid noticed they brought two baskets of greens with them, but for some reason, they spoke a long time with madam before leaving just now.”
“Greens? Could it be vegetables from Mei Yue Lou?” Duan Tingxuan attention heightened, “are there any eggplants? Just a few days ago, the old madam wanted to know when we’ll have Stuffed Eggplants again.”
Xing’er smiled, “This maid did not really pay attention, master had better ask madam about it.” After finished speaking, she added water to the last birdcage and called towards the house, “Madam, the master is here.”
“So what if he’s here? Surely there’s no need for you to inform me? His first stop will definitely be the kitchen.” Su Nuan Nuan called back impatiently.
Xing’er looked back, and was just in time to see Duan Tingxuan disappearing into the kitchen. She laughed so hard that she had to support her waist, she spluttered, “Missy knows the master too well. He really had disappeared into the kitchens.”
In a while, the little marquis trooped out happily with two large plates, on it was his favourite Fried Dough Twist , along with a few Flaky Golden Thread Pastry. Xing’er just so happened to still be around, and came forward to help carry the plates. She smiled and said, “Master visited the kitchen on his own again. Surely there’s no need? Surely there’s no need for master to case the kitchen, the madam would not be so unkind as to hide away things from master?”
“I’m just looking out for you servants. By going to the kitchen myself, I can pick out the things I like. No need for any of you to run around and fetch things for me. And what’s this about casing the joint? Am I a burglar?”
Since Duan Tingxuan’s both hands were occupied by the large plates, he did not have a spare limb to knock Xing’er on the head. Instead, he merely glared at her, before puffing up his chest and entered the house. He had one foot over the threshold when he spotted a streak of shadow. Thanks to his well trained reactions, he ducked down immediately. His most despised enemy did not manage to grab his plate of food, but still somehow landed on all claws just behind one shoulder. “That dratted cat, how dare you try to snatch food from me? Why don’t you just grab something from the kitchen? That mistress of yours definitely won’t pursue you for it.”
“Miao-oo…” so his attack was dodged by the master, so what? This was something that happened quite regularly. In the end, he was still a cat, how could he be compared to the martially talented little marquis with his hundred battle techniques? However, even if the encounters ended in defeat 9.5 times out of 10, it did not deter Zhao Cai’s determination. As long as there was a chance to win, no matter how slim, he would continue to battle on. In this way, Zhao Cai had basically forged himself through hard work, cunning and determination to become the ultimate Warrior Cat.
The little marquis walked into the room shrugging his shoulder, trying to dislodge the large cat. However, Zhao Cai was too experienced a cat to be dislodged just like that, claws sank deeper into the brocade cloth, Zhao Cai even bite into the little marquis’ shoulder as he inches his way up that tall body, hoping to snatch a piece of Fried Dough.
“Nuan Nuan, Sir Liang of the Dali Government Office said that he had been having a rat problem at his house, and wanted me to send a couple of good cats over. In my opinion, our house’ Zhao Cai is the only one qualified for this mission. Well? Shall we lend him to Sir Liang for a few days?”
Duan Tingxuan finally managed to shrug Zhao Cai off just after he placed his plate of snacks down. The cat landed gracefully on the kang bed, but was immediately seized by the little marquis. Duan Tingxuan was about to hurl the cat to the floor when the eyes of his wife glared at him. His hand stiffened, and in the next moment, Zhao Cai found himself tucked against a strong male chest while a large hand petted his fur lightly. The hypocrite smiled winningly at his mistress, “What do you think?”
“If you’re not worried about making an enemy out of this Sir Liang, by all means.” Su Nuan Nuan said neutrally. This answer was completely out of Duan Tingxuan’s calculation, he never thought that his wife would ever agree.
“What do you mean? I’m kind hearted enough to lend him my cat, what’s there for Sir Liang to be angry about? Just what are you talking about?” Duan Tingxuan was really curious now. He knew that this wife of his was very good at arguing, however, he never would have thought that he’d encounter such a ‘high level’ reason.
“Are you under the impression that cats eat rats?” Su Nuan Nuan paused in her needlework to ridicule Duan Tingxuan. “From what I know, this government official of yours is famous for his love of birds, to the point that even I know his name. If you were to send Zhao Cai over, well, I have no idea how many rats he would have decimated, but I can guarantee that at least a few bird cages would be damaged. Any birds that did not manage to fly away would be turned into a corpse. Tell me, would this Sir Liang demand to see your corpse as compensation?”
“Fine, fine, we’ll limit Zhao Cai’s destruction within Spring Breeze Court.” Duan Tingxuan was currently visualizing a white haired old man chasing him around the government office to beat the living daylights out of him and shivered.
In the end, Zhao Cai still managed to snatch two Fried Dough Twist away. Satisfied with his success, Warrior Cat finally sauntered off, his fluffy tail waving like a victory flag behind him. Once Duan Tingxuan was sure that the cat was gone, he swivelled his neck over to study Su Nuan Nuan’s embroidery. He broke into laughter and sniggered, “You’ve been working on these mandarin ducks for a few months now, why do they look like regular ducks? Nuan Nuan, you really have no talent in this area. We have plenty of seamstress in our Sewing House, moreover, Concubine Lin sent over so many pouches and belts over that you could probably use them as rags. Even Hong Lian is a deft hand at sewing, so much so, that even your cat did not lack clothes. You had better focus your attention on cooking.”
Su Nuan Nuan rolled her eyes and sneered, “I do this not for your amusement. Who cares whether I’m sewing regular ducks or mandarin ducks? Eat, eat, eat, am I your cook now? If you dared to disrespect me like this again, you won’t be able to find even a scrap of Fried Dough Twist.”
“Wu, actually, when I came in earlier two maids were just leaving. Xing’er told me they’re here to send vegetables and are clearly not our maids. I heard that you spoke to them at length. Is there something the matter?” the little marquis sensibly shifted the topic, and heard Su Nuan Nuan snapped, “What else is there? For some reason your Madam Yun have gone crazy these past two days and is scolding people left and right. A few days ago, Xiang Yun and Cong’er saw her scolding the garden manager, Auntie Liu, in public. The two maids who came over are part of the Kitchen crew and personally brought some vegetables over from Mei Yue Lou’s greenhouse. They told me that quite a lot of people had been reprimanded. A few other managers were also scolded over insignificant infractions. Everyone is feeling anxious and tense over this. They clearly want me to do something about this, but if I were to do anything, I would have to take over the household duties. So, I just told them to endure it for a bit more.”
At this, Su Nuan Nuan finally put down her needlework and looked straight at Duan Tingxuan. “The lord clearly has a lot of clout in this house. This one clearly understands the lord’s power. Last time, I had thought that there was no way that the matter with the female servants would ever be silenced, but look how peaceful things are now. Nobody actually dared to go against your will. Could it be possible that Madam Yun’s sudden abnormal behaviour have to do with you cold shouldering her? Surely this is not good, right? Also, those managers who had suffered her temper wae all victims of your neglect.
So, why don’t you find some time and have a sit down at Autumn Rain Pavilion? I’m sure, if you’re the one who speaks, Madam Yun should listen.”
Author White Pear Flower: Everyone, please sit back and relax. The inner court struggle is just beginning.
[Gumihou: Duan Tingxuan, you better take responsibility of your wives! If Nuan Nuan is hurt, I will write a NuanJing fanfic!]
 Add legs onto a snake painting – ruin the effect by adding superfluous details  Fried Dough Twist – by youtuber May Lynn, she speaks English with a Chinese accent, and gives the ingredients list in English, so enjoy ~
Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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