Chapter 252: Material Benefit
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Onionpi
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They made it back to Spring Breeze Court just when the little kids were let out of classes. This gave Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan just enough time for a little rest before Xue Zhi Lan, Xu Ran Yun, Concubine Jiang and Concubine Jing came over with the children to pay their respects to them as the Lord and First Wife of the main family.
Su Nuan Nuan and Duan Tingxuan immediately picked up a girl-child each and set them upon their laps. Su Nuan Nuan smiled, “When I left the estate, this little one was just taking her first step, but look how well she walks now. I must say, girls are definitely sweeter and more obedient than boys. Look at our little princesses, they are so pretty. Just wait, First Mother will make a doll for each of you.”
The little girls’ soft and milky voice chorused together, “Thank you First Mother.”
Su Nuan Nuan was so enchanted that she kissed them a few more times before handing the girls back to their wet nurses. Then, she addressed Xu Ran Yun and the other ladies, “Enough, you can all go back if you like. I know some of you find this place a little stifling. Since little children are interested in new things, they must all be impatient to see the souvenirs we brought back from Liaodong. You may leave them here to play with the gifts.”
Xu Ran Yun and the rest murmured something agreeable and filed out properly from the official wife’s house. When the last of them were gone, Su Nuan Nuan finally stretched her waist and said to a smiling Duan Tingxuan, “We’re finally home. After rushing on the road for so long, my waist is all sore, my thighs all numb. Luckily I tied some soft padding under my legs, otherwise, my skin would have been rubbed raw by now.”
She had just finished speaking when Duan Maochuan came over with a smile, “First Mother is tired, do let me massage your shoulders. When concubine mother is tired, I’d tap on her shoulders before she sleeps. I’m very good.”
“Aiya, no need. Just how big are you? I’m sure I’ll be fine, but your little hands will be sore later.” Su Nuan Nuan captured Duan Maochuan into her arms and kissed him soundly. She praised him, “Knowing that you’re thinking of me makes me feel better already.”
Duan Maosen looked up enviously. He rushed over to say, “First Mother, I can be filial too. But third brother said it before me, we can share the job together. First Mother just sit and let us massage you.”
Before Su Nuan Nuan could say anything, Duan Tingxuan said, “Since the children are so eager to show their filial appreciation, why don’t you let them massage you? Look, though I, their father am here, no one showed me any attention.”
At this, Duan Moafan and Duan Maoming also came forward with grins on their faces. The four boys struck their little fists on their parents’ shoulders, the effect was actually more ticklish than anything, but both Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan made little noises of appreciation. After all, since the children were sincere, how could they simply reject their filial appreciation?
Su Nuan Nuan hugged Duan Maochuan closer and said, “How is your mother lately? Did she say any more nonsense in front of you?”
Duan Maochuan shook his head, “No, but I can see that concubine mother is not very happy. I don’t know what happened, but about half a month ago she suddenly hugged me and cried all night long. She didn’t say anything at all, just cried. I was really worried too, but then the next day she’s fine again. Aih! First Mother, when will I grow up, ah? I think, if I can grow big, concubine mother will be very happy.”
“It’s fine to grow up slowly, there’s no need to hurry. When you’re all grown up, you’ll realize that the happiest time of your life is in your childhood. Your mother should be fine, I shall speak to her one of these days.” Su Nuan Nuan said as she stroked Duan Maochuan’s head.
Just then, Xiangyun stuck her head in and said, “Missy, the gifts and souvenirs for each family have all been sorted out in boxes and cages, would Missy like to inspect them one more time?
“We’ll inspect them for First Mother.” Duan Maofan called out enthusiastically and led the stampede out the living room.
Anxious about them tripping and falling on their faces, Su Nuan Nuan called out. “Be careful you lot and don’t mess things up. Hong Lian, you make sure to watch them.” She ended up going to the room to inspect the gifts and souvenirs with the children one last time before letting the servants carry them out. Then, she picked out some small gifts and shooed the boys out to play with them in the courtyard.
Finally, she entered her room and spotted Hong Lian placing a tray of snacks onto the table. She smiled and said, “That Matron Liu must have complained about me one too many times, hasn’t she? Humph! Humph! I don’t need you to tell me, I know. It’s all fine, just wait, I’ll definitely arrange a good dowry for you. We’ll make that woman eat her words once she sees how much I favour you.”
Hong Lian said, “Missy, please don’t wrongly accuse people. She hasn’t spoken a single word before me…”
She had barely started her explanation when Si Ping’s voice called through the courtyard, “Xiang Yun, is the master there? Please inform the master that the second and fourth princes have arrived. They are now with the Lord Marquis in the front living room. The Lord Marquis has sent for master.”
“I understand.” Duan Tingxuan’s voice called out. He stood up and met Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes.
The fourth prince’s background was something of a thorn in their hearts. Afraid that her husband would act recklessly, she rushed over and, in a pretence of fixing his clothes whispered, “Keep your calm and be sure not to reveal anything. Even His Excellency Long knew nothing about this, we can keep this a secret so long as you don’t reveal anything. Otherwise, with how shrewd that fourth prince is, he would surely sense something wrong.”
“Be at ease, I understand.” Duan Tingxuan patted Su Nuan Nuan’s hand and turned to leave. The moment he left, the maids, Xiang Yun, Xing’er, Cong’er and Hua’er all trooped in. Su Nuan Nuan smiled at them, reached into her bosom, withdrew a small pouch and handed it to Hong Lian. “Why don’t you take a look at what’s inside? When you get married, the thing inside will be part of your dowry. See if you like it?”
“As long as Missy is the one who gives it to me, this maid will surely like it. How could this maid not trust in Missy’s vision?” Hong Lian said cheerfully. Still, she could not resist opening the little pouch. 12 round pearls rolled into her palm. Of the 12, 6 of them were as large as the tip of her thumb, the rest were at least as large as the tip of her middle finger. As the maid of a noble household, she would of course know the value of these precious things. The sight of these pearls nearly sent her into a daze. “These pearls are perfectly round and are as beautiful as the highest quality Hepu Pearls . Just where did Missy get these? And how could this maid receive them? Th- this maid dare not take them.”
Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “Since I’ve given them to you, just take them, ba. I, your mistress had earned them all after two days of shucking mussels at Liaodong. I have kept some for myself, of course, and they are no worse than yours in terms of quality and lustre. These are meant for your Phoenix Crown. There are 12 pearls all together, so you can split them into 6 per set. Therefore, it is my wish that you will have ‘A Major Smooth Sailing ’ life in the future.”
Xiang Yun and the rest of the girls rushed over to admire the pearls and cooed over the gift. Xiang Yun smiled, “For Hong Lian’s life to go smoothly do we really need to use any special lucky numbers? All will be well as long as she gives birth to a son, and everything will be smooth from birth…”
She hadn’t finished speaking when Hong Lian slapped her on the mouth, scolding her with a laugh, “At least watch your mouth in front of your juniors. Are you trying to catch your death by saying this to me?”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled warmly at them, “Xiang Yun, there’s no need for you to be jealous. Next year when you get married to Shuang Xi, I shall give you the exact same type of and the same number of pearls. But for now, I am saving it for you.” After speaking, she took out another pouch and opened it to show Cong’er and the other low-level maids, “I know that all of you girls have a sharp tongue on you. I have to be fair in order to prevent any bad rumours from leaving this place.
Well, here you go, everyone will have their share. However, the day of your marriage is far yet, so you can amuse yourselves and play with these little ones first. You can make them into accessories or gift them to your friends or relatives. However, don’t look down on them as inferior things, these are true Eastern Pearls. You won’t find it easy to buy Eastern Pearls with such lustre or roundness.”
Seeing that even they have a share of the precious souvenirs, Cong’er and the others were ecstatic beyond words. They all came up to receive three pearls each. Xiang Yun said, “Missy, could it be that you’ve actually travelled all the way to the Ussuri River? I heard that there are a few Eastern Pearl farms there and that these pearls could only be found at the Ussuri River. But, considering the time constrain, I don’t think you could’ve actually made it all the way there?”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled, “En, we managed to hit a stroke of good luck this time. We intercepted a batch of smuggled Eastern Pearl Mussels. Miss Chu and I have been shucking them for two days straight. It was quite fun. Once we pry apart the mussels, we’ll prod the soft flesh within. To be honest, the majority of the mussels had no pearl at all, therefore, when we finally found one it’s such a great feeling! Nothing could describe the joy of popping perfect pearl from mussel flesh. As for the sight of a lustrous pearl shining under a soft light… Aiya, the feeling is like, like having a fish biting at the end of your line…”
The maids sat around her as Su Nuan Nuan waxed on and on about her adventures at the Liaodong Peninsular. After they heard her stirring talk about finding kelp to help the Jinzhou province stave off starvation, the accidental discovery of Eastern Pearl smuggling as well as her trip to the Jiang Nan as a spy, the girls all became fascinated by her adventures. Xiang Yun slapped her head in annoyance and cried, “If I knew it was going to be this interesting, this maid would have dressed up in men’s clothes and followed Missy in her adventures.”
Hong Lian sniffed coldly. “You are too stupid. Teacher Lu would have discovered you in three days.”
Su Nuan Nuan told these maids that their reason for going undercover was to find evidence to prove the innocence of the Duke of Ping at Lu Fengyu’s office. Everything else went unmentioned. After all, these things would be revealed at the imperial court soon, so there was no reason to hide from them.
As the group chattered happily together, they heard someone announced the arrival of Concubine Jing. The maids all quickly retreated with their loot, knowing that their mistress must have a lot to talk about with Concubine Jing. Moreover, a lot those things were probably not something they were supposed to be privy to.
[Gumihou: Woohoo, presents for everyone ~]
 Hepu Pearls – Also known as Southern Pearls, are some of the best pearls from China. It is said that “Eastern Pearls are not as good as Western Pearls, and Western Pearls are not as good as Southern Pearls”
Therefore, for Su Nuan Nuan’s Eastern Pearls to be compared equally to Southern Pearls is a great compliment indeed.
 The 12 pearls represent Six Six Big Smooth or Major Smooth Sailing. The 66 is supposed to represent good luck from the word 顺顺利利, Shun Shun Li Li, In Chinese, 6 is pronounced as ‘liu’. How the ‘liu’ came to represent ‘li’ is a bit of a stretch in imagination, but it’s culturally traditional.
Kind of like the now popular 521 for I love you
5 2 1 = Wu Er Yi
我爱你 = Wo Ai Ni = I Love You
is still a mystery to me
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