Chapter 164: Generous Donation
Translated by Gumihou
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Su Nuan Nuan’s chest rose and fell rapidly for a while. Finally, after one huge sigh, she managed to compose herself, and turned towards Old Madam Fang. After a polite salutation and another sigh, she said, “Old madam, though Concubine Jiang is at fault. She did all this in order to protect Chuan’er. So her heart is, to some degree, in the right place. So, let’s overlook the matter this once. If she had gotten Chuan’er to lie to protect herself, I would not be standing here. However, now that she has admitted her guilt I do believe that she’s basically a good mother. Therefore, won’t old madam please indulge this granddaughter-in-law of yours?”
Old Madam Fang fixed her gaze onSu Nuan Nuan. She somehow managed to maintain a steady stare until the last part. With a snort of amusement and a suspicious shine to her eyes, she sniffed, “Good child. You’re clearly the one who is most wronged, yet here you are making your little jokes. Aih! This matter really wronged you, ah.”
A warm feeling suffused Su Nuan Nuan’s heart, she quickly rubbed her own suspiciously shiny eyes with a handkerchief and smiled at Old Madam Fang, “Old madam understands me best. Granddaughter-in-law really felt wronged, but after hearing old madam’s kind words, my heart suddenly felt so much lighter. Old madam, Chuan’er is still young and should not leave his blood mother. As the saying goes, ‘Not for the monk’s sake but for Buddha’s sake’. In the end, as the victim of this shenanigans, since I decide not to pursue the matter. That should be the end of it, right? So, won’t old madam do this little favour for your granddaughter-in-law?”
“Did you all hear that?” Old Madam Fang pointed at Su Nuan Nuan with a dramatic gasp.
Madam Yang laughed, “What Nuan Nuan said made sense. Only, Concubine Jiang’s action went against the rules. This daughter-in-law believes that though she might escape the death penalty, she must still be punished…”
She hadn’t finished speaking when Su Nuan Nuan ‘indignantly’ interrupted, “Yes! Madam is correct. Therefore we should take away half a year’s worth of allowance as punishment.”
Duan Tingxuan glanced at his wife with askance. He thought, a reduction of salary is normally a punishment used to punish salaried officials, why are you using it here? To think that you’d let Concubine Jiang get away with such a light sentence? Aih! In the end you’re still too kind for your own good. He really didn’t know whether to be pleased or angry with this wife of his.
Madam Yang had no words. At the very least, she felt that Concubine Jiang deserves 12 strikes of the plank. Though this woman was part of her son’s harem, today’s action was too excessive. If she was not properly disciplined, just what kind of behaviour could they expect from other wives and concubines? Though she was a kindhearted person, she knew that inner court life was not simple. She was perceptive enough to realize that all was not as it should be with today’s matter.
Then Su Nuan Nuan continued, “Ah, if she can’t receive allowance for six months straight, it would probably be too much. We can’t just let mother and child ‘Drink the Northwest Wind’, right?” she turned to Concubine Jiang and said, “Whatever. Your half year’s worth of allowance is definitely gone. You will only receive half of your monthly allowance for a whole year. In exchange for this privilege, you must hand over some old clothing and bedding to me. I happen to need these things now. Oh yes, everyone please don’t forget what we’ve talked about just now, ah. If I remember correctly, Sister Yun wants to donate 1,000 silver taels, right?”[It was at this point that Gumihou realised that Su Nuan Nuan is evil in her own way]
Everyone nearly fell over themselves: This miser. Even after all that excitement she did not forget to plunder their savings.
Xu Ran Yun nearly spat up blood. Today, she really had ‘Lost an army after having given away the bride’. Not only did Concubine Jiang failed to harm that woman, she was even found out. Whatever, it’s not like that woman’s life or death had anything to do with herself, but this 1,000 silver taels? The amount was no joke, ah. Unable to sit still anymore, she stood up and cried, “Where would this one find 1,000 taels, ah? Madam please cease with the jokes now.”
“No need to pretend.” Su Nuan Nuan said decisively. “I know that you have the money, so that’s settled. Sister-in-law already came up with 3,000 taels, how could our main house be any less generous? Do you want to be laughed at?
“Madam, this one really doesn’t have the money, ah.” Xu Ran Yun’s tears brimmed in her eyes. The shock alone was enough to make her cry. If she really handed this money over, how was she to survive in this household?
“Alright, Nuan Nuan. Don’t force her anymore. You want 1,000 taels, right? This old lady will give you 1,000 taels.” Old Madam Fang decided to rescue Xu Ran Yun from her predicament. Su Nuan Nuan hesitated, then said, “Old Madam Fang, as the matriarch of the family. Don’t you think 1,000 tael is too little?”
“Pei! Are you trying to extort me too?” Old Madam Fang laughingly scolded.
Su Nuan Nuan passionately said, “What’s all this about extortion? This granddaughter-in-law is just thinking of old madam’s rank. If old madam were to only donate 1,000 taels, wouldn’t others call you stingy behind your back? They might even condemn granddaughter-in-law and second brother’s wife for ignoring the customs by daring to donate more than old madam.”
Shi Yurou’s eyes brightened, she quickly stepped forward and said, “Sister-in-law is right. In order to not surpass old madam, I shall donate 800 taels…” She hadn’t finished speaking when Su Nuan Nuan threw herself at Old Madam Fang and pretended to cry as she clutched at the old lady’s arm, “Old madam pity this granddaughter-in-law, ba. Look, with just one line from you, others are already trying to wriggle out of their promises already.”
“Alright, alright, since you’re so pitiful, I shall donate 5,000 taels as well. It’s for a good cause after all.” what had clearly been a hostile atmosphere had been diffused by Su Nuan Nuan with just two or three lines, putting Old Madam Fang in an extremely good mood. Which was why she was perfectly willing to help this granddaughter-in-law of hers extort money… She patted Su Nuan Nuan’s hand and then pointed at Shi Yurou, “Hear that? So you can’t lower your donation by a single coin.”
Shi Yurou could only smile and say, “Of course, since old madam already say it like this, this granddaughter-in-law must also fulfil her promise to sister-in-law.” Smile, keep smiling though she was nearly angered to death. Curse you, must you bully me like this? To dangle a thread of hope and then with [thwap!], slap me into a newly dug abyss?
“Clearly old madam loves me most. It’s worth all the delicious things this granddaughter-in-law has given to old madam.” Su Nuan Nuan was smiling with satisfaction. Though the Concubine Jiang incident was unexpected, the amount of loot she managed to rake in today is a clear silver lining in this cloud. Naturally she was not going to let Xu Ran Yun off. Now that she had conned money off Old Madam Fang, she turned her powerful beam at her next target.
Xu Ran Yun’s heart stuttered at the brightness of Su Nuan Nuan’s smile and knew that she could not escape her fate. She could only stiffen her scalp and say, “I don’t even have any personal warehouse. The most I can come up with is three hundred silver taels. You can’t get any more even if you kill me.” the words passed through her lips as though they were dragged out with hooks. Her cheeks twitched a few times even as she said it.
Now that even Old Madam Fang had donated money, how could the others hold back? Thus, first Madam Yang, followed by Liu Min, then other ladies all began to loosen their purses. The donations averaged roughly around 500 or 200 taels per person. In a short while, more than 10,000 taels were collected. As Su Nuan Nuan was busy counting her loot in front of her victims, Duan Tingxuan suddenly laughed. “As an imperial court official, I naturally cannot lose to everyone here. It just so happens that some local officials have donated money to the government office. The total collected is about 2,000 taels, added to the money second brother had promised, we almost have a total of 20,000 taels. Let’s call it an even 20,000, I shall make up any shortfall to this amount.” Since this was a project managed by his own wife, the little marquis naturally backed it enthusiastically.
With 20,000 taels to purchase cloth and cotton, they should be able to give assistance to all of the refugees. If they budgeted the money carefully, they might even have enough surplus to help the Capital’s poor, giving the local poor an opportunity to pass a warmer winter. Su Nuan Nuan was nearly bursting with joy when her eyes caught sight of Concubine Jiang, who was still kneeling on the floor like a wooden doll, Duan Maochuan clutched to her bosom.
Though the sight was quite eye-catching, everyone seemed to have collectively agreed to ignore the mother and child duo. She sighed inwardly, then said, “Old madam, this granddaughter-in-law needs to go back and properly calculate everything. I shall not trouble old madam’s rest anymore.”
“Pei! Now that you’ve got what you want, you’re running away from my presence, is it? No need to make excuses about troubling me. I’m telling you now, that 5,000 tael is not free. Any time you have anything good, you must make it for me. Especially that Candy Floss thing. Even if I can’t have a lot of it, surely there’s no harm for me to eat some?”
“Yes, yes, yes, this granddaughter-in-law will listen and obey your instructions.” Su Nuan Nuan stood up and gave her salute. Seeing that she was about to leave, others began to follow suit. Duan Tingxuan finally addressed Concubine Jiang, “Why are you still here? Still haven’t angered old madam enough?”
Concubine Jiang finally got up, her face flushed with shame as she pulled little Duan Maochuan’s hand, and together, they dazedly stumbled away.
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Once back at Spring Breeze Court. Su Nuan Nuan took out a piece of paper and brush, and began to balance her accounts. While she had learned how to use the abacus as a child, that skill had been completely forgotten. Well, it’s not like using formulae calculations is any more difficult than an abacus. Duan Tingxuan stood beside her, quietly watching as she filled out two pieces of papers with weird formulas, and then unhesitatingly draw lines on a separate piece of paper and filling that with prices of items she had investigated earlier.
Just what kind of person is this little marquis? A brilliant talent, an unparallel genius, with just a glance, he immediately realized the value of what he was seeing. Required items, listed prices, various other expenses were all clear in just single glance. Finally, he sat down and said, “Nuan Nuan, this accounting method is very clear and easy to understand. Hurry up and teach me the method. With this, checking accounts will be a breeze. They won’t be able to get away with shifty accounting records.”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled, “You’re right, but to be honest, this is only the most basic of basics. There are more complicated methods, but I don’t know enough about those. But, I suppose this is good enough if you just want to keep proper records.” She had taken accounting during her university years, but was not particularly good at it. She had learned enough to pass, but not enough to be truly good at it. However, the basics were more than enough for Duan Tingxuan’s purpose.
Next, Duan Tingxuan turned his attention towards the pieces of paper filled with formulas. He had some basics with mathematics, and after some coaching from Su Nuan Nuan, he was able to fully understand the formulas. “This is certainly convenient. It doesn’t lose to the abacus in terms of speed, and is even more useful with large numbers that abacuses have trouble calculating.”
“But, of course.” Su Nuan Nuan was feeling very proud: Though it was all simple division and multiplication on single, double digit equations, it was still the wisdom of a thousand years, distilled by the brilliant minds of countless people.
Husband and wife chatted casually for a while, when Duan Tingxuan sank into silence. After a while, he looked steadily into Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes and said, “Nuan Nuan, this matter… you’re sure you can let it go?”
Su Nuan Nuan paused. Of course she knew what Duan Tingxuan was talking about, but for a long moment she said nothing. Finally, she said, “So what can I do if I can’t let it go?”
[Gumihou: Of course Su Nuan Nuan is upset and hurt. More importantly, she is not plagued by the Buddha sickness!]
 Not for the monk’s sake but for Buddha’s sake – Out of deference for someone else  Drink the Northwest Wind – Be cold and hungry  Lost an army after having given away the bride – suffer a double loss after trying to trick the enemy
Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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