Chapter 271: Turning Point
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Vinisha
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After praying for a little while longer, and not forgetting to remind Su Nuan Nuan repeatedly to make full use of her second chance at life to do lots of virtuous deeds, the ladies finally dropped the subject.
At the lull in the conversation, kitchen matrons happened to arrive from the An Ping Estate to deliver ingredients. The ladies all got into the kitchen to make lunch together. The Duke of Ping came in during lunchtime with his two sons. They had found some temporary errand jobs, with the Duke of Ping working as a night-guard and sounding the gong periodically to keep the time. Since both his sons were literate, one became a bookkeeper’s assistance at a cloth merchant’s shop while the other became a teacher for the small children at a public school.
Though Su Nuan Nuan was not the rich young miss type, even she felt uncomfortable seeing the once prestigious and wealthy ducal family reduced to such straits. Her elder brother laughed heartily at her complicated expression, “This is nothing, you know? Compared to forced labour, we are now a lot better paid and don’t have to work under the sun. Back at Niu Tou Mountain, not only do we have to suffer harsh labour, we fear for our lives too. Luckily, brother-in-law was able to intervene for us. Under the excuse of shielding us from assassins, he was able to move us out of that hellish place into somewhere less horrifying.
We still had to work hard, but as long as we worked, we were paid. To be able to eat one’s fill and dress warmly is already much better than what we had before. The money we used to pay for this place is saved from that time. It’s also thanks to brother-in-law for speaking with the emperor that we are now able to return to the Capital. When we refused to stay in the mansion he bought for us, he allowed you to stay with us to justify sending all sorts of silks, satin and other fabrics as well as fish, prawns, meat and vegetables to our place. Sister, for a man to do so much for a woman, he must really have her in his heart. In the future, you must cherish this love and not hurt him carelessly.”
“I know, I know.”
Ever since Su Nuan Nuan had returned to stay with her maternal family, she had heard her parents, brothers and sisters-in-law say this over and over again until her ears were nearly calloused. Seeing her impatient look, he laughed and did not continue anymore.
Second brother broke into the conversation with a smile, with his hands occupied with a long sparerib, he said, “Speaking of which, I have something funny to tell you. Aren’t I the last to return today? While I was at the entrance, someone ran over to seek asylum with our house. She said something about wishing to sell herself to our household as a slave. This made me curious since the place we’re renting now doesn’t look like it is owned by people who could offer asylum or afford slaves. Naturally, I told them that we’re a just a commoner’s family, but that person refused to believe me. When I turned around to lock the gate, she was still kneeling in the streets. I wonder how long she’s going to kneel there.”
Madam Liu said, “Could it be that the woman was sent over here by the estate? You tell that person we can’t afford to purchase slaves and not let them blindly wait there.”
At this, the elder son said, “Surely not. I’m afraid these people aren’t very willing to talk things out. If they are sent by brother-in-law, would he let them earn their wages by squatting on the streets? Isn’t that too convenient? Oh! Could it be that now we are in this situation, brother-in-law expects us to pay for the help?”
Everyone laughed at the unlikeliness of this matter.
Su Nuan Nuan said, “They can’t be sent by My Lord. If nothing else, he would let me know if he’s sending someone over. The Lord never said anything about it to me.”
Madam Liu said, “No matter who sent them, we should make things clear. That way, we’ll have nothing to do with whatever they plan to do in the future.” She fished out more Minced Pork Vermicelli  and placed them in her husband’s bowl with a smile. “Try this, dear. This is made by Nuan Nuan. She called it something fancy, Ants Climbing a Tree. I was so excited when I heard the name, but it turned out to be just Minced Pork with Vermicelli. How dare she simply sensationalised an ordinary dish by giving it a fancy name, right?”
Everyone laughed again. Though the family had been reduced to commoner’s status, their happiness had not diminished at all.
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“Have you managed to investigate the matter?”
Unlike the few months where Su Nuan Nuan had disappeared off to Jiang Nan without so much as a by-your-leave, this time she had officially left all housekeeping responsibilities to Concubine Jing. With an official chain of command in place, very little chaos showed up on the surface. Below the calm and airy appearance, however, rapid undercurrents were developing. Aside from the few people making waves, no one else seemed to have noticed it.
Dusk had fallen, and it was barely 12 hours since Su Nuan Nuan had left the estate. Within her wing of Spring Breeze Court, Concubine Jiang was already setting her schemes into motion. Her plan depended on Rong’er’s answer to her question.
“Yes, this maid had heard it myself. Cai Sang’s sister-in-law was indeed violated by Madam Lan’s elder brother. In fact, she is still being called over to serve him ever so often. Cai Sang’s elder brother only dares to feel anger but dare not take action. Not only that, the last time he was sent out to a farmstead, he encountered a wolf and nearly lost his life to the beast. Instead, he lost only a leg. That Cai Sang came to this maid to borrow money to treat his injuries. Because this maid lent her the money, she is very grateful.”
Concubine Jiang nodded, “I had a feeling that this matter was very odd. As the personal maid of Madam Lan, she should be borrowing from her mistress instead of us. Looks like First Madam is right. A person should have more flowers and fewer thorns. Your relationships with people have always been good, which is why Cai Sang would come and find you. Otherwise, we would not have access to this information.”
She tipped her head and thought for a while, then lowered her voice, “What do you think? Can we get Cai Sang to handle this matter?”
Rong’er hesitated, “This matter is rather risky. One could lose their life if they are not careful. Plucking mulberries takes more than just courage, a willingness to take risk is important. However, from what this maid has seen during our occasional talk, there is hidden dissatisfaction in her heart. Her main complaint is: though they are both Madam Lan’s personal maids, why was Long Yan the one taken into confidence while she was left out? Why has she been pushed aside? Madam Concubine, don’t you think that these words harbour dissatisfaction against Madam Lan?”
Concubine Jiang sneered, “Cai Sang could be considered a good maid. How could a good maid like her be privy to Madam Lan’s shameful secrets? If she was not careful, this little maid’s loyalty might waver and end up blurting out all her secrets. Naturally, a shrewd and cunning maid like Long Yan is more desirable when it comes to picking a helper to carry out her evil deeds. No matter, the true reason behind Cai Sang entering this estate as a personal maid was for her to become the Lord’s bed companion, a way for Madam Lan to buy the Lord’s favour. However, Madam Lan’s confidence in her beauty was strong and her jealousy even stronger and thus, she had never allowed Cai Sang the opportunity to climb into the Lord’s bed. Now the girl is losing her youth, but still hasn’t been matched yet, I’m afraid her resentment against Madam Lan might be stronger than you think.”
Rong’er smiled slightly and said, “Isn’t it so? I brought it up once with Cai Sang and was surprised by how anxious she was to get married. Of course, I had no way of understanding why. It was only after I’d investigated her sister-in-law’s matter that I found out something interesting. When she was young, that Cai Sang caught the eye of the young master of the house while she was still serving as an ordinary maid to Madam Lan. The young man had gone to Madam Lan’s mother and demanded for her to serve him. But, in the end, nothing came out of it and she was brought into this estate with Madam Lan and underwent training as a personal maid.
This is merely a guess, but this maid believes that Cai Sang must be anxious to get married because she was afraid of that young master. To be honest, how could a man of his status be so lustful and careless? As a son of a ducal house, though a shu  child, he’s still a young master. How could he be so frivolous?”
Concubine Jiang’s eyes flashed with satisfaction. She said, “We can make use of this information. Tomorrow, you monitor Madam Lan’s movements for me. Let me know where she went, we must get her to stick another needle into Cai Sang’s heart.”
[Gumihou: Uuuhh, you know what? If I ever get transmigrated into historical China, I’m going to just become a cook or a bookkeeper. Something completely boring. I can raise chickens too. These ladies are scary…]
 Minced Pork Vermicelli – otherwise known as Ants Climbing a Tree, lol!
 Shu child – an illegitimate child born of the second wife or concubine
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