Chapter 146 : To Incite Disharmony
Translated by Gumihou
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When Xue Zhi Lan walked into the parlour, her heart was filled with glee.
How could she not be gleeful? Just a few months ago, she had to knowingly allow Xu Ran Yun to make use of her. This had filled her with resentment and made her sullen for weeks, but now, now look at how the shoe was on the other foot. They say that 10 years is not too late for a nobleman to collect his revenge. But look, here she was, a mere wife, able to have her revenge so soon. How could her heart not sing?
Her face wreathed in smiles, she bobbed a beautiful greeting to Xu Ran Yun before sitting down. She made a show of studying the other’s face before gasping dramatically and said, “Elder sister, your face is a little pale, has something been bothering you? If you’ve fallen ill, you must call for the physician as soon as possible. You’re still so young, you mustn’t let illness overcome you.”
Xu Ran Yun, who did not have the mood to feign civility with her, sneered, “There’s no need for little sister to say all this. Just say what you’ve come to say.”
Xue Zhi Lan gave a beautiful smile and asked, “Why, what is wrong, sister? What’s with this flippant attitude? Surely I’m allowed to visit you? Whenever you visited me last time, I’d at least serve you tea.”
“Little sister wants tea from me?” Xu Ran Yun’s lips curled. She flashed a look at Cui Bing, “Madam Lan is teasing us for behaving badly towards guests, why haven’t you send for the tea yet?”
Cui Bing immediately stepped forward and smiled, “Madam, please be at ease. No matter what, Autumn Rain Pavilion will not forget our manners. This one had already sent for the tea. However, Madam Lan is unexpectedly anxious for tea, perhaps she’s thirsty from the walk over here?” she smiled at Xue Zhi Lan. “If Madam Lan does not mind, we have plain water here, would madam mind a sip or two?”
Since victory was already within Xue Zhi Lan’s hand, she was not at all bothered by an insignificant maid’s attempt to provoke her. Instead, she turned to look out the window and murmured, “It snowed really well a few days ago, it’s just too bad that it did not snow again this couple of days. How sad for those plum blossoms that had bloomed lately. I think the red of the plum blossoms looks best against a canvas of white snow, don’t you think so too, sister?”
Why is this woman talking about plum blossoms and snow? Xu Ran Yun frowned, and said, “What about it? Red blossoms against white snow is seen every year. It’s enough to make people sick looking at the same thing year after year. Rather than that, I heard that Mei Yue Lou’s hot house is not bad, word has it that Concubine Jing has planted all kinds of curious flowers and plants there. I’ve always intended to have a look. Oh, but little sister should know that Concubine Jing and I rarely spoke. Perhaps sister could put in a word for me, after all, you and Concubine Jing have always been good friends. Won’t you ask her to suggest a time where we can all go together?”
After she spoke, Xue Zhi Lan’s colour changed. In truth, Xue Zhi Lan had came to ‘Throw stones down a well’, but was stabbed by Xu Ran Yun instead.
In the past, Concubine Jing used to be someone from her side, but now? She had completely switched over to Su Nuan Nuan’s side. If she weren’t running over to Spring Breeze Court, Concubine Jing could be found at Mei Yue Lou. It’s been days since she had last visited Xue Zhi Lan’s, let alone share any intimate talk. The last intimate talk they had was about Su Nuan Nuan joking about how large Spring Breeze Court was, and that Concubine Jing should move in so they could see each other more. This plan eventually eventually went nowhere.
Not long after that, she overheard news how the lord threw a tantrum. The maid who brought the news over was puzzled but repeated the lord’s words in verbatim. Something about how “Spring Breeze Court belongs to me, and no one is allowed to take a share. Not Concubine Jing, Ming, Ling or Ting.” Though it sounded like an explanation, it only served to confuse Xue Zhi Lan even further. With her social status, Concubine Jing could not own her own residence, even if she were to move to Spring Breeze Court, she would only be given a wing at best and would have to obey first madam’s every order. How is this ‘taking a share’? Surely the lord’s hat was a little too big?
Xue Zhi Lan was sure that something was up, though Concubine Jing was beautiful enough to ruin a city, the lord rarely visited her. However, neither seemed really bothered by the lack of attention. The only thing she picked up from this mysterious development was that Concubine Jing’s good days were probably numbered. When nothing really happened, she became even more confused and anxious. Xue Zhi Lan hated it when things outside her control happened, as she panicked quietly over the matter, Concubine Jing and Su Nuan Nuan grew even chummier. She was resentful and frightened, resentful because Concubine Jing had forgotten all the favours she had bestowed upon her, had forgotten that she was the one who offered her shelter when none would bother; frightened for the true reason behind Su Nuan Nuan’s sudden friendship with Concubine Jing. Why? Was it to confront her?
In short, Xu Ran Yun’s strike was not light. Rattled by the pain, her composure wavered and she lashed out, “If elder sister would like to see the flowers, it’s not difficult. I shall speak to her as soon as I see her. Only, I never thought that sister still has the mood for such things. I thought sister must be under pressure from all sides. After all, dearest sister, though in theory anyone could play the role of the House Manager, I must say I can’t see myself doing it. The worry alone would cripple me.
Though we might call ourselves mistresses of the house and appear to have some measure of power, you and I know the truth. Just what kind of mistresses are we? It’s fine if servants ignored us, we can still order them to be beaten. Our real fear is when a servant decides to betray us for glory at the feet of another master, and spilling all our secrets to buy into another’s heart. That is the truly fearful thing.”
“As long as you act with honour, what is there to fear?” Xu Ran Yun sneered. Now that she had heard this much, she understood Xue Zhi Lan’s true purpose in coming here. Very well, she would not hold back either, “Sister really knows how to joke. Why have you come all the way to my place to say all these baffling things? Has someone betrayed you for glory? You can tell me. Who is that daring servant? I shall help sister punish them.”
When Xue Zhi Lan saw that Xu Ran Yun still remained strong despite the deliberate jab, she sneered privately, sipped her tea, and drawled, “I am only saying it figuratively, of course, sister need not be so worried. However, if something like this were to happen, I fear even sister would not be able to handle it. In the past, Concubine Jing is someone who shared my residence, and there were no secrets between us. But now, her eyes barely flicker at the sight of me. Of course I’m sad, but what can I do? With her status now, even elder sister, our honourable house manager, could do nothing.”
“Hah!” the sound escaped Xu Ran Yun. She shook her head and said, “Little sister is right. I really can do nothing against Concubine Jing. Speaking of which, I really had been unfair to you. How obedient was she to you last time? I still remember the two of you going everywhere together being all warm and friendly. Sadly, a person’s heart is like water, ah. Ah, but such is the way of relationships within a large residence like this, isn’t it? Only a person who drinks the water will know whether it’s warm or cold, sister, there’s no need for sister to take it so personally.”
Though she was obviously ridiculing the other woman and taking pleasure in her misfortune, a trace of bewilderment flashed through Xu Ran Yun. Surely Xue Zhi Lan did not come here to be made fun of by me, right? Surely she’s not this stupid?
As expected, just as she was starting to puzzle over Xue Zhi Lan’s level of intelligence, the woman’s light laughter sparkled through the air and she said, “Sister is too right. Now that I think about it, it’s perfectly normal since ‘People aim high, while water flows down’. Based on this logic, now that she has first madam’s support, she was about to become the first Concubine House Manager of the Capital, so how could she be bothered with little old me? I have neither strength nor connections, what could I offer her, really?”
“What did you say?” Xu Ran Yun finally could not take it anymore. With a nearly audible [Shua!] her expression changed and she snarled, “Concubine House Manager? Just because she had handled a few sesame seed level duties and now she can be a full manager? Surely not.”
Xue Zhi Lan sneered, “Elder sister had better be careful. Of course those small duties are nothing, but don’t forget, she never was given a chance to handle even such small duties before. Has sister not noticed yet? After Pushan Temple, some people’s popularity rate has increased. If this certain someone wishes to become the House Manager, wouldn’t this be the best time? Therefore, elder sister shouldn’t let your guard down, ah.”
“Even if I am demoted, there’s no way she could ever become the House Manager. Though the house rules been relaxed a little, but it could never be so lax as to allow this abomination. Just because the old marquis and elder madam never said anything, do you think they would actually allow this kind of nonsense to happen? Moreover, there’s still Madam Min and the branch lady. How could they allow a mere concubine to be elevated to the same social level as them?”
Xu Ran Yun’s voice pitched higher and higher, rather than attempting to convince Xue Zhi Lan, it was more like she was trying to convince herself. Xue Zhi Lan nodded exaggeratedly and smirked, “That’s true. A concubine could never be a House Manager, if word got out, where would the House of An Ping hide its face? Only, have you never heard of ‘Title-less Position’? Once Concubine Jing becomes a House Manager, just not a House Manager in name, who would dare to go against her?”
“What kind of house manager runs around without the House Manager title?” Xu Ran Yun sneered. However, her heart was already sinking as she answered her own question. How does one become House Manager without a title? All too easy! Now that the matter has been brought up, she was starting to feel even more helpless.
As expected, Xue Zhi Lan smiled again and said lightly, “How does one become a House Manager without a title? With first madam to back her up, all she has to do is say that first madam is still the ‘real’ House Manager, with her acting as the ‘Assistant’. Who would be able to say anything? Would elder sister dare to say anything?”
“The lord would never allow this nonsense.”
Xu Ran Yun sounded humiliated and angry, but Xue Zhi Lan only shook her head and sighed, “What’s not to allow? In fact, it’s entirely possible that our lord is the one who proposed this. Surely elder sister has seen it too? The first madam can no longer be suppressed anymore. Just think, after her great performance at Pushan temple, well, it would be wrong to say that she did not have a bit of bravery within her. But, who dares to question whether she was in any real danger at all?
It’s been difficult to endure these past few months. Before this, she had entrapped the lord through the ‘Loosen the reins for a better grasp’ technique. Thanks to this, she could not openly show a desire for power, otherwise wouldn’t her scheme be revealed? Then, the Pushan Temple incident happened. I believe if the situation was truly deadly, even she would not have volunteered to stay back. To be fair, there were plenty of chances to survive, and since that woman knew them all, she performed a great drama in front of the senior madams, with herself as the courageous heroine.
In the end, didn’t the lord come and save her? At that time, we thought that the risk she took was too high, but look, not only the old madam and the lord marquis, but even elder madam regarded her as something close to heaven-sent. Not to mention the servants. Each and every one of them saw her as their father and mother. If she doesn’t seize the opportunity now, then when?
To be honest, putting Concubine Jing in power was also another trick. After all, how could she just throw away her mask of ‘Indifference towards worldly rewards’ just like that? In the end Concubine Jing was but a mere concubine, with her cheap background and little connections, isn’t everything she does comes under the first madam’s power?
Otherwise, why do you think she would spend so much effort luring such a cheap person over. Dear elder sister, you’ve always been the clever one. Don’t tell me you never saw this coming?”
Author White Pear Flower: Don’t look down on this person, ah. Her speeches could cause people to die! Xue Zhi Lan’s sinister side is finally revealed!
[Gumihou: I’m really not good with this kind of person. Runaway! I would just run away, ah, ah, ah!]
 Throw stones down a well – To hit someone when they’re down  Too large hat – Too sensitive, I guess?  A heart is like water – it flows away like water and doesn’t stay with you.  A person who drinks the water will know whether it’s warm or cold – Only the person who experiences something directly will know the truth.  People aimed high, while water flows down – It’s natural for human beings to be ambitious  Loosen the reins for a better grasap – To control someone by giving them more liberty
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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