Chapter 278: Explain Yourself
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Vinisha
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Before she could finish speaking, Concubine Jiang immediately held up her hand and swore to heaven, “This maid shall carve Madam’s teachings into her heart. If this maid ever dared to have thoughts of going against your word, I shall die a miserable death… no, my Chuan’er shall die without a proper burial site.”
“No need to be so serious.” Seeing how Concubine Jiang not only swore on her own life but the life of her son as well, Su Nuan Nuan found herself believing in this woman’s word. Concubine Jiang had always been notoriously cowardly and harmless before Chuan’er had been harmed anyway.
As expected, Concubine Jiang began crying again. “Madam, you don’t understand this maid’s intention. This maid really did not have any other thoughts or ambitions beyond living peacefully with my son. My fondest wish is to see my boy grow up, marry a good girl and have children of his own. Once my wish is achieved, I will die without regrets. Apart from this one wish, this maid didn’t even have half an intention of striving for any kind of status.
In truth, if Madam Yun had wanted my death. This maid would be lying if I say that I am willing, but I would not have resented her very much. Who told me to be born a slave? However, she had gambled with Chuan’er’s life. This is something that this maid would never accept. This maid was born a slave, but Chuan’er is the Lord’s son. Even though he’s a shu son, he’s still a young master of this estate. For what reason did she have to make use of my son to harm First Madam?
Not only did she not regret harming Chuan’er, but she also hated the fact that Chuan’er did not die to suit her plans. Every time she saw him, there was ill will in those eyes of hers. Even young Chuan’er was aware of how frightening his second mother is. Even if this maid is willing to die in atonement for whatever resentment she had against us, she would not let Chuan’er live. After all, there was no way she would just ‘Cut the Weeds without Eliminating the Roots ’, wouldn’t she? Therefore this maid… this maid was struck by a sudden desperate fear which turned into vicious courage for a while and revealed this lotus root weakness to Madam Lan. However, this one never thought she would strike so fast…”
After hearing Concubine Jiang’s explanation, Su Nuan Nuan sighed. “This is why I would not sympathize that Xu Ran Yun. She only has herself to blame for not understanding that even weak women would turn into fierce tigers when their children are threatened. That day when you bared your bloody teeth and entrapped me at Old Madam’s place, no one in this estate was willing to forgive you. But do you understand why I spoke up for you? It’s because I see you as a mother and understood that you went to such lengths for the sake of protecting your son.
Though what you’ve done was entrapment, I see it as a mother doing whatever it takes to protect her son. That is why I am willing to protect you. If Xu Ran Yun had understood this point, she would not have acted merely as a mistress punishing a servant only. Unfortunately, though we might not lament her death, Ming’er has become a victim of your feuds. That poor child personally witnessed his mother choked to death right before his eyes. If we’re not careful, this incident could haunt him for the rest of his life, ah.”
Concubine Jiang’s tears continued to fall. As she sobbed and choked, Su Nuan Nuan couldn’t help but ask, “What’s wrong now? When you were half frightened to death just now, you weren’t crying like this. What’s with all the tears now?”
Stuttering through her tears, Concubine Jiang said, “This maid j-just has this uncomfortable feeling in her heart. W-why did the heavens not let this maid be born into Madam’s service? Of the thousands and tens of thousands noblemen and aristocrats in the Capital, how many of them would treat us slaves as people? So what if we are mothers? We are still slaves and could be beaten or shouted at their whims. As for the children of their slaves, are they even considered humans? They could only be considered property, to win their master’s favour, the children grew up learning to smile and endure provocations.
When they ended up dead, the masters would just replace them with new companions. After all, if the child of a slave died, it’s their own fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no talk of pity or companion. Because my boy refused to die and ruined my mistress’ plans, the anger she felt against him was similar to the anger against a disobedient dog. Even then, without a deep sense of resentment, Madam Yun would not have spared so much effort to destroy us without outside instigation. If I had followed First Madam earlier, would this maid had fallen to the level of plotting against her mistress?”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled bitterly, “Even if you had followed me from the beginning, your ending might still be the same. You are an intelligent woman, it is not easy to estimate the depths of Xu Ran Yun’s mind and to calculate her actions to this level. Enough, there’s no point crying about it now at this point. Madam Lan is clearly planning to dump this pot of faeces onto our heads. However, we will not just sit here and let her do as she pleases. Now, stand up and tell me everything properly. Just what really happened?”
Finally, Concubine Jiang dared to stand up. Her legs were all a little cramp from kneeling so she sat down on the edge of the couch. After gathering her thoughts, she said, “It started when one of Madam Lan’s personal maids, Cai Sang, came to Rong’er to borrow some money. I realized immediately that she must be facing some kind of trouble. At first, I dismissed the matter, but still, let her borrow the money. A few days later, I spotted Madam Lan walking alone in the garden and thought I should inform her of this matter, and maybe find out what was wrong. We ended up speaking for a little while, and I must admit, Madam Lan was very kind to me.
When Madam is not at the estate, I kept my head down even when I was at the senior madam’s place. I had to scurry around every day, worrying that I would accidentally encounter Madam Yun alone. Therefore, when Madam Lan was being so warm and friendly towards me, I decided to stroll around the garden with her. I- I have no idea what devil came over me just then. An evil thought arose in my heart and I- I revealed the secret that Madam Yun could not eat lotus root to Madam Lan.
H- however, I thought that surely Madam Yun would not dare to openly strike against Madam Yun? Even if she dared to, surely not so soon… when I heard of Madam Yun’s sudden death, I was so frightened I dared not show my face, but then I was also afraid that they would accuse me of being an ungrateful slave. Which would raise even more suspicion. Finally, I went. I had just returned when one of the maids told me what Madam Yun had said and stirred up all that issue…”
Su Nuan Nuan had been listening silently all this while, nodding at certain parts and frowning at others. Once the narrative was over, she sneered, “What an excellent poisonous scheme. Aside from harming Xu Ran Yun, she also dared to aim her spear at me. That Xue Zhi Lan is not one to show her talent so easily, but when she takes action, the result is certainly shocking.”
Concubine Jiang said, “Has Madam forgotten? She pulls tricks like this all the time. When I looked into the incident with Chuan’er, though Madam Yun was the one who acted, Madam Lan was the one who had instigated her. Now that I think about it, if that scheme had succeeded, she would have struck down three birds with one stone, right? Pained by the loss of my son, I would have spared no effort to pursue vengeance against First Madam. After she had made use of me against First Madam, she would later reveal the identity of the true culprit to me. Of course, I’d go after Madam Yun with all my might and hate. With just a little nudge here and a hint there, Madam Yun would have hauled in a large net of fish from this scheme.”
What she said made sense and Su Nuan Nuan found herself believing Concubine Jiang. After some thought, she said, “Enough, you go back first. No matter how deep or convoluted the schemes of the inner court, could it ever be as deep as the oceans? Even the sun could reach past the ocean surface for miles before its light could not be seen. I shall have the Lord investigate this matter thoroughly. The one who committed the crime will pay, no one else would be dragged down.”
Concubine Jiang thanked her one more time before bowing out. Once she got back to her room, she saw that Yang’shi had only returned with Duan Maochuan. She said to her son, “Your second mother is gone. You most likely won’t be going to school for the next few days. Your second brother is here now. When he wakes up, you go and talk with him. Remember, you must not say any bad words against second mother. When a person dies, their sins disappear with them like smoke. You make sure to play with your second brother. If he wants to cry, let him cry and comfort him later. Understand?”
Duan Moachuan did not fully understand what his mother had said, but he knew that his mother was telling him to be nice to second brother. In the past, he had once faced the threat of losing Concubine Jiang and knew how terrible it was to lose one’s mother. Thus, he nodded solemnly and ran out of the room.
From the side, Yang’shi smiled, “I had not expected sister to be so fair and sensible. Here I was, worrying that you might take joy in calamity after how Madam Yun had treated you. To think that you’d still show such care to Little Master Ming.”
Concubine Jiang sat down. A sudden cold smile slashed across her face. “I am taking joy in calamity, ah. Now that she’s dead, I cannot tell you just how joyful I am. There’s not a shred of darkness in my heart now. Whatever sense of loyalty and gratitude I had for a mistress like her had long since been stomped away.
However, First Madam is right. Though she deserved her terrible fate, Little Master Ming and Little Miss Qin are poor victims of this incident. Those who did bad things must be punished, and Madam Yun had been thoroughly erased from this earth. However, those two children had nothing to do with her actions. So, of course, I pity them. In the future, I will treat them well and not let my hatred for their mother land on their heads. I’ve already received payment enough for the wrong I’ve suffered. It shall all end here. This is also something that First Madam taught me.”
Yang’shi nodded. “That’s right, ever since sister followed the First Madam, you’ve changed a lot.”
“Have I? I’m just blindly trailing after First Mother’s way of life. Could a human being really change?” Concubine Jiang laughed.
Yang’shi said, “Haven’t you? Sister, you might not realise it but even the way you walk and speak is different. Though you still speak gently, your waist is straight and you no longer cower or shrink away as much. I’ve seen you smile a lot more. You’ve also become friendlier…”
Concubine Jiang looked up warily, “Have I not always been friendly? How can someone in my position be otherwise? I dare not even mistreat ordinary maids or matrons, after all, my position is barely a step above them.”
Yang’shi smiled, “As you’ve said, you play along because you dare not mistreat people, that’s not true friendliness. The degree of intimacy you treat people now reassures their hearts and people feel more comfortable around you. In the past, though you did not show it, people could feel it when you’re looking down on them. Though they dare not make it obvious, I’ve heard people ridicule you behind your back. I can say that there’s no such talk going on now.”
A smile of true joy flashed across her face and Concubine Jiang said, “’Those Who are Close to Cinnabar will be Dyed Red, Those Who are Close to Ink will be Dyed Black’. When I was with Madam Yun, how could I be anything but cautious and secretly haughty? First Madam is different, have you not seen how maids here are like? Even the lowliest of them flounce around with light steps and their heads held high, not a shred of servitude misery on them.”
As she was speaking, Rong’er happened to walk in. At the sight of Yang’shi, she smiled and said, “Little Master Ming is awake. Right now Little Master Chuan is sitting on the porch with him. Mi’shi is supposed to be watching them, but I caught her napping against a pillar just now. I think she must be tired out from all that had happened today, if Yang’shi doesn’t mind, perhaps you can watch the boys together? The weather is getting cold, it’s better not to let them stay outside too long.”
Yang’shi nodded, “That’s true, Little Master Ming is already suffering from grief and shock, we must take care that he doesn’t catch a cold too.” With that, she quickly bustled out of the room.
Once she was safely out of sight, Rong’er ducked out to make sure there was no one else around. Then, she got one of the lower level maids to feed the birds in the corridor before returning to the room. Even once the door closed behind her, she dared not speak, only looking at Concubine Jiang with questioning eyes.
When Concubine Jiang gave a brief nod, she breathed a sigh of relief, pressed her hands together and began to chant the sutra under her breath. Once she managed to calm herself, she sat beside Concubine Jiang and began to massage her mistress’ leg. As she kept her eyes down, pressing and kneading the leg, she said, “Does First Madam believe you? Did she see through us?”
Author White Pear Flower: Well? What do you think of Concubine Jiang’s performance? Don’t say Nuan Nuan, even I would believe her acting, ah. Hahaha!
[Gumihou: Ahaha, these people are so scary…]
 Cut the Weeds without Eliminating the Roots – A play on the idiom ‘Cut Weeds and Eliminate the Roots’ – To completely eradicate or destroy your enemy.
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