Chapter 264: Coalition
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Vinisha
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“How could I?”
Xue Zhi Lan gave a bitter laugh. She flashed a glance around and saw that Feng Xian and Long Yan were currently strolling far away from where the ladies were sitting, discreetly patrolling the gardens to make sure no one has the opportunity to approach them without warning. She said gravely, “I shall skip the nonsense and say my piece. You of all people should know the situation we are currently in now. If we battle it out anymore, the only person who benefits from it would be First Madam. Here are my thoughts, we should form an alliance first. Once First Madam is taken down, we can then decide who’s superior.”
Xu Ran Yun was stunned. Then she shook her head and said miserably, “Matters have come to this point, what is there to think about? Do you still refuse to give up? Have you not seen that everyone in this room from the Old Madam to the lowest coarse labour matron, who in this estate doesn’t wholeheartedly love or respect her? You still dare to scheme?”
“No matter how loved or respected she is, we must still think of some way to take her down. Don’t forget, once that child of hers is born, if it turns out to be a boy, your Ming’er and my Fan’er and Sen’er would be pushed aside. After going through all this trouble for so many years, are you ready to resign yourself to letting First Madam pluck the peaches we’ve worked so hard for? Surely you’re not fooled by her treatment towards the boys? If you believe that her kindness towards our children genuinely sincere…”
“Of course I’m not so foolish as to believe that.” Xu Ran Yun was immediately stirred up, but then she impatiently said, “Enough of this. What’s the point of talking about this and testing my resolve now? If you have some kind of plan or scheme up your sleeve just say it.”
Xue Zhi Lan smiled, “It’s not like I have any plan in particular. However, I’ve heard that the Duke and Duchess of Ping would be back from Niu Tou Mountain soon, the emperor has chosen to pardon the Pings from their forced labour punishment, but have yet to return them to their previous status. I’ve spoken to First Madam herself, she will be returning to her maternal home and stay there for a while once the couple is back in the Capital.”
“So, what of it?” Xu Ran Yun frowned.
Xue Zhi Lan’s reply was mild, “What of it? Do you really not know or are you being deliberately obtuse? Once the Duke and Duchess of Ping return, they would still be commoners without status, would they be able to enter the Duke’s Estate? Even with the Lord’s intervention, they must still observe proper etiquette and not be seen to enter a residence with ‘Deep Connecting Courtyards ’ immediately. The best he could do is locate a ‘Three Entrance Court ’ and supply a few servants to attend to them. Once the First Madam entered this place, just how meticulous would the security around her be like? Do you think it could be as strict as the ones within our mansion?”
“You… you wish to temper with the security there? And… her life?”
As Xu Ran Yun gasped in shock, Xue Zhi Lan cast her eyes down demurely and said, “Why can’t we? Should we not do our best? After all these years, we have shown our laughing and smiling face while quietly forging through trials of fire and water in the dark. Now that she has the whole of the Lord’s love and affection if we were to leave her alone, would we have any more standing within this estate?”
“How could we? How could we possibly?”
Xu Ran Yun had been reduced to a nervous wreck by Xue Zhi Lan’s bold and aggressive statements. Now that she thought about it, ever since Su Nuan Nuan was admitted back to the inner court, the one to challenge that woman was herself, but in the end, the one who ended up eating a loss was her as well. Though she would never say it out loud, she bore some real fear towards Su Nuan Nuan.
Thus, at Xue Zhi Lan’s words, not only did she not think of standing aside and reaping the benefits of the battle between Xue Zhi Lan and Su Nuan Nuan, she never thought Xue Zhi Lan could actually win in this scuffle. Perhaps she really had been completely suppressed by Su Nuan Nuan. She even felt a bit sorry for Xue Zhi Lan for entertaining thoughts of going against Su Nuan Nuan. In her heart of hearts, she believed that Xue Zhi Lan’s chance of winning was close to 1 percent.
“Why could we not? Even if we do not target her life, we should at least ensure that she could not safely bear this child. Even if the child is born, we must think of a way to shake her position. Just think, if she knew that someone is targeting her, would she be able to sit comfortably in her courtyard? Under such stress and circumstances, I don’t believe that she would not throw away her façade and reveal her true face. As long as she reverts to her original self, don’t you think the Lord’s hate for her would be renewed? Do you believe that the Lord has turned into an idiot who would ignore all her faults just from eating her food?”
One has to admit, Xue Zhi Lan’s understanding of Xu Ran Yun was truly deep. She knew exactly what to say in order to arouse the other’s feelings. Once this was said, Xu Ran Yun’s eyes visibly brightened, and she knew she had succeeded.
Keeping the glee hidden, Xue Zhi Lan allowed her face to grow more solemn as she said, “When I said that you’ve miss-stepped by feigning madness, it’s because I felt that your action had been too reckless and hasty. We have not even reached the end of our tether yet, so why break the jar then? We are far from being beaten. I don’t believe that us working together would not be able to force that woman back to her rude and violent shrewish form.
This is why I pity you. Though I know you’ve suffered, but we have no other alternative now. Thankfully, that Concubine Jiang has gone to Spring Breeze Court when she did, anyone would be angry to be reminded every day of an unfortunate matter. Moreover, you’ve always been a little hot-tempered, therefore as long as you remain a little more cautious, I’m sure you’d be able to gain the upper hand soon.”
“I’m afraid that would be too difficult for me. You were not there when the Lord came to my place all in a temper. I believe that in his eyes, I am no different from the First Madam of the past. For now, my greatest desire is to pass my life quietly with Ming’er.”
Xu Ran Yun took out a handkerchief, and dabbed at the non-existent sweat on her forehead, her face suddenly reverting back to its graceful brilliance. Even her way of speaking was cheerful and lively. However, what kind of person is Xue Zhi Lan? She knew, from the way this person was acting, that she had decided to ‘Sit on the Mountain to Watch The Tigers Fight’.
She gave a cold laugh and drawled, “Please don’t say that. You’re thinking that it’s about time I charge into the enemy lines after so many days of staying quiet. Let me tell you, this is not something that either you or I could handle alone. Otherwise, why would I bother to come find you? Do you think I’d really want to deal with you once the First Madam has fallen? The fact of the matter is, you’re the only person I can depend on now.”
“I don’t quite understand your meaning.” Xu Ran Yun frowned. Privately, she thought: This Xue Zhi Lan is just too hateful, continuing to make use of people and keeping herself clean of all guilt. This woman is too sinister for words.
“What is there to not understand? Don’t misunderstand my light tone, but harming the First Madam takes more than just an overnight effort. Let me put it this way, if we can exterminate her while she’s at her maternal home, we have no need to concern ourselves with what happens next. However, I’m afraid that this is the only time we have the opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Even if we did not succeed in gaining a decisive win, as long as we work together to trip up the First Madam from time to time, she would be stimulated into regressing to her previous character.
There’s no need for you to worry about me trying to trick you in any way. You may observe me and know that I am not merely moving my lips to instigate you. One crucial thing, if my plan doesn’t work, you must quickly follow up with something else. We must not allow First Madam time to recover before the next onslaught. This is the key to forcing her to return to her original self.”
At this, Xu Ran Yun said nothing for a long while.
Xue Zhi Lan laughed coldly once more, “Before, you have Concubine Jiang on your side while I have Concubine Jing, and there were four of us against her. But now? Two of them had been coaxed over by First Madam through various means. Right now there are only the two of us left. If we cannot unite to try and battle this through, are we going to sit here and watch as that woman climb on top of our heads? She will leave us crawling around on our bellies shamefully under her cold sneers for the rest of our lives, do you truly want that?”
Though Xu Ran Yun was in perfect agreement with Xue Zhi Lan, she still refused to be led about by the nose and said, “That won’t necessarily be the case. How do you know that she would mistreat us in the future? Did the Lord not give us a way out? He told me that he felt guilty for not living up to the promises of his youth, that he would find a way to send us out and live a new and better life.”
“Heheh! And did you take it?” Xue Zhi Lan sneered. When Xu Ran Yun shook her head, she laughed again. “Of course you didn’t, and of course I didn’t either. You know why? It’s because our children are here. No matter what kind of scheming bitch you might think I am, I cannot part with my own flesh and blood and live a free and unfettered life outside. Aren’t you the same? Do you still not understand why the Lord made this generous offer?
He is hinting that in the future, as long as we stay within the An Ping Estate, we would be living a widow’s life. Are you truly willing to do this? As for expecting that woman to treat us well, why don’t you move your brain and think for a moment? Who was the one who put these words into the Lord’s mouth? She pretends to be benevolent and compassionate, but in fact, she is cutting our way out. Hasn’t she always done this in the past?”
At this, Xu Ran Yun’s heart was finally shaken by Xue Zhi Lan’s words and she sighed, “What you said made sense. Since we have now come to this, then let me see your performance first. You should also know that I no longer have many people under my hands ever since the House Manager position had been taken away from me.”
Xue Zhi Lan smiled, “Very well. I know that you will not believe me unless I’ve proven myself. That’s fine for me, just sit back and keep watching. As for people, the ones with you now are the ones most loyal to you, so they are the most trustworthy as well. Don’t tell me you’re not well versed with the difficulties of seeing through a person’s heart? Those servants who fawned and curried favour with you while you were still a House Manager, could you really say that these people would sell their lives for you? Not afraid that they would sell you out instead?”
As the two spoke, Xu Ran Yun gradually felt her mind grow lighter and more refreshed. It was as though a ray of sunlight had pierced through the grey clouds that had been gathering around her head these past few days. Looks like she was still hoping for an opportunity to overthrow Su Nuan Nuan, and to strive for an opportunity for her son to become the heir.
As the two chatted familiarly together, the sun gradually ascended to the sky. When it was deemed too hot to sit comfortably in the garden anymore, the two of them walked out of the garden together. They were just walking around one of the fake mountains when they heard a voice said, “I think the chrysanthemums have bloomed very well these past two days. Look, just as I’ve predicted, they’ve all bloomed at the same time. The people in charge of this garden have done a very excellent job. Not only is the garden perfectly clean and well kept, but the flowers bloomed so thickly that they resemble colourful cotton clouds.”
Xue Zhi Lan and Xu Ran Yun exchanged a glance. Xue Zhi Lan snickered softly and said, “This is certainly the very definition of ‘Meeting Enemies on a Narrow Road’.”
Xu Ran Yun sniffed coldly, “Sluts. That she had curried favour with First Madam, she is living her life so happy that it really makes me lose face in the estate.”
She had just finished speaking when Concubine Jing’s voice was heard again, “Madam is still too lazy to move, otherwise, she would have come out to admire the flowers. It was too bad that our trip to the Pushan Temple was ruined by that unfortunate event. Otherwise, we could have stayed there this year, and maybe enjoyed the chrysanthemum flowers for two or three days straight.”
As the women chatted, they rounded the fake mountain and very nearly collided into Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zhi Lan.
At the sight of Xu Ran Yun stomping over resentfully, Concubine Jing hurriedly pulls Concubine Jiang behind her. In a flash, Xu Ran Yun bumped into Rong’er, who had been standing beside Concubine Jiang.
The colour on Xu Ran Yun’s face changed and she said sternly, “You cheap slave, you dare to bump into me? Where are your eyes? Or have you done it deliberately?”
[Gumihou: Sighhhh, this kind of reminds me of the antics some of the politicians are pulling in my country now. All the bullying and secret talks and trying to one-up each other….]
 Deep Connecting Courtyards – Like what the An Ping Estate is like, with separate courtyards for inner court, outer court, North Court, Spring Breeze Court etc… It was so large that they even have an abandoned courtyard aka Mei Yue Lou
In short, Deep Connecting Courtyards are made up of several Three Entrance Court.
 Three Entrance Court – The regular ‘rich family’ single courtyard house. With a main gate (The ones people in the movies are often seen beating and crying against after they’re thrown out); the inner gate, where you reach after crossing a small yard or garden (Ninjas often had to jump across rooftops to reach this), and finally the third door is whatever door you open once you’ve crossed the inner gate.
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