The Feast – 280 – Inner Court Investigation (Part 1)   

The Feast – 280 – Inner Court Investigation (Part 1)  

Chapter 280: Inner Court Investigation (Part 1)

 

Translated by Gumihou

Edited by Vinisha

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Duan Tingxuan nodded, a bitter smile on his face as he said, “That’s right. You’ve always been this frank, haven’t you? To be honest, I hate her too, what she did angered me to death, but we’re still husband and wife. Knowing that she died so painfully made me uneasy.”

“Her death can’t be considered painful. It probably took her less than half an hour to die, but you think about poor Chuan’er. So little, and yet how much suffering has he experienced already?” Said Su Nuan Nuan as she leaned back and adjusted herself into a more comfortable position.

Duan Tingxuan remained silent for a long moment, before saying in a grim voice, “You said just now that I already have some preconceived notions. You’re right. I have a feeling that Concubine Jiang is also harbouring some intention to harm Xu Ran Yun, what do you think?”

Su Nuan Nuan nodded, “Indeed, that Xu Ran Yun is too wilful when it comes to bullying people. She was the one who oppressed Concubine Jiang first, forcing her into a position where one or the other has to die. If I were Concubine Jiang, I will try to take her out first. However, do you believe that Concubine Jiang would dare to personally take action? By revealing Xu Ran Yun’s sensitivity against lotus roots to Xue Zhi Lan, doesn’t this reveal the true motives in her heart? However, in the end, she did not dare to personally act, right?”

“That makes sense.” Duan Tingxuan nodded. Then he said, “No matter, Pingzhang is a master when it comes to unravelling cases like this. I’ll invite him over tomorrow. Not as an investigating officer of the Dali Government, of course, he will be here as a friend to help me out on some sticky issue. That way, surely the Count of Cheng Ming would be satisfied.”

Su Nuan Nuan gaped at him, “You’re actually getting Pingzhang to come over? Surely this is ‘Using an Ox Blade to Kill a Chicken [1]’? Moreover, this is the inner court and a lot of women would be involved so won’t it be inconvenient? Why don’t you try solving it yourself first? If you really can’t solve the matter surely you can call in Pingzhang then? Surely you are no worse than him when it comes to the quality of brains?”

After hearing his wife compliment him like this, a surge of satisfaction filled Duan Tingxuan’s heart. After some thought, he said cheerfully, “What you say makes sense. Let’s do as you say. Gather all the people involved tomorrow in a closed room and question them together. That’s right, we can’t delay Xu Ran Yun’s funeral arrangements either. Hm, Concubine Jing and second sister-in-law can make the arrangements together. You bring all the children here at Spring Breeze Court and make sure they are not unduly influenced by what has happened. Just stay quietly at the court and keep the children quiet with some writing and painting.”

Su Nuan Nuan, who was resting her head on her husband’s lap, shook her head and said in a low voice, “I know you want to protect me. You don’t want me to feel angry or be troubled over the matter. However, I must show my face. Otherwise, the Count of Cheng Ming’s people will believe that I am hiding in my court out of guilt. By not saying anything, I might as well admit that I had a hand in her death. No matter what, I must show myself as an open and upright person.”

“Nuan Nuan, surely you’re overthinking it?”

“You’re the one who’s not thinking enough. Though you’re intelligent, you’re still not sharp enough for inner court battles. I know I’m right. Anyway, I still haven’t reached the point where my belly is too big for moving around. So, be at ease, I will make sure to take care of myself.”

After hearing his wife, the little marquis could only sigh and muttered, “Once I find the hidden murderer, I shall not spare her.”

 

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“Make sure to give more attention to details when making arrangements for Madam Yun’s funeral. No matter what, she had died young, which is pitiful in itself. Just keep in mind that we are really doing this for Ming’er, don’t let him think that we short-changed his mother. If there is not enough money from the public funds, let me know and I’ll fetch some from the private treasury.”

It was early morning of the next day, Shi Yurou and Concubine Jing were in the living room with Su Nuan Nuan to receive instructions for Madam Yun’s funeral. Shi Yurou smiled and said, “Sister-in-law, don’t worry, the money from the public fund is ample enough for the arrangements. How could I touch your private treasury? Concubine Jing and I will make sure that this funeral is done grandly. After all, the dead can do no wrong. Whatever gratitude or grievances we might have had in the past will be left in the past.”

Su Nuan Nuan nodded, she was about to say something when Xiang Yun pushed the beaded curtain open and said softly, “Missy, the people from Count of Cheng Ming have arrived. Elder Madam bade you to come.”

“Very well.”

Su Nuan Nuan was about to stand up when Concubine Jing frowned, “What does the arrival of the Count of Cheng Ming’s representatives have to do with Madam? Why did Elder Madam ask you to go over? You’re close to six months pregnant, surely there’s no need for you to go and receive visitors?”

Shi Yurou’s eyebrows arched up, “That’s right, from what I’ve heard. Those two hussies, Feng Xian and Cui Bing, were braying nonsense in front of the Count of Cheng Ming’s representatives yesterday. These two brats should die a miserable death for not having proper eyes in their heads. As for those Cheng Ming representatives, just who do they think they are? Just what kind of place do they imagine our Estate of the Marquis of An Ping is? It’s not enough for them to have Elder Madam to accompany them, but they still want sister-in-law to go? Bah! I say. Just what kind of grand treatment are they expecting?”

Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “No need for you to worry about it. Just make sure to arrange Madam Yun’s funeral properly. She died under some odd circumstances, and the Lord is prepared to investigate the matter to the end. I was the one who requested Elder Madam to inform me when the representatives from Count of Cheng Ming arrived. We should give a clear account of the matter to them as well.”

“Surely there’s no need for Madam to personally set out, ah?” Shi Yurou muttered. However, she knew that Su Nuan Nuan must make an appearance otherwise she would appear guilty. Therefore, besides mumbling under her breath, she did not say anything.

Instead, it was Concubine Jing who said, “But what about the children? Aren’t all the children sent over here this morning?”

Su Nuan Nuan said, “I’m going to leave Hong Lian here to keep an eye on things. Moreover, Concubine Jiang is here, along with all their nannies and wet nurses, there are more than enough people to look after a few children.”

While she was still speaking, Xiang Yun had already tied off her white camlet silk coat and was now holding out her arm for Su Nuan Nuan to escort her over to Autumn Rain Pavilion. Once they reached the door, they saw Duan Maoming running over to them. He caught hold of Su Nuan Nuan’s cloak and tugged, his lips already chapped and bleeding from being bitten so much. “First mother, I want to go with you. I know that mother’s people are here, you must all be here to investigate mother’s death.”

Is this really a five-year-old child? Surely his power of understanding is too high? Also, just where did he hear of this? Or has he come upon this conclusion by himself? Surely this level of intelligence is too high, right?

While Su Nuan Nuan was cursing in her heart, her face remained calm and amiable. She crouched down to stroke Duan Maoming’s head and said, “Ming’er, do you trust your father? Do you trust first mother?”

Duan Maoming hesitated, but then nodded firmly.

Su Nuan Nuan said, “If you trust your father, and trust first mother, how about trusting us to handle the matter? First mother will not lie to you, the purpose of our gathering this time is to find out the truth behind your mother’s death. However, this matter is very complicated. If you are 15 years old, even without you asking, first mother will bring you with me. Unfortunately, you are only 5 years old. You might not be able to control yourself and lash out when you should not, maybe even spoiling mother and father’s plan to catch the culprit. First mother promise you, no matter what the end result is, first mother will give you the true answer. Alright?”

“First mother, you won’t lie to me?”

When Duan Maoming realized that he couldn’t go, tears began to roll down his cheeks. Su Nuan Nuan answered solemnly, “First mother won’t lie to Ming’er. Just think, for what reason would first mother lie? Right?”

Duan Maoming frowned in thought. Thus far, Su Nuan Nuan’s credibility with the children was quite good. Therefore, when she said this, Duan Maoming released his grip on her cloak and lowered his head. Still staring at the floor, he said, “First mother, you must seek justice for mother, wuwuwu…”

“Alright, first mother will remember Ming’er’s request. I shall give your mother justice. Now, go back and take care of your sister, alright? Now that your mother is not around, you must take up responsibility as the man of the house and look after your sister.”

Duan Maoming sniffed and nodded. His little chest puffed up a little at the responsibility entrusted to him. Su Nuan Nuan smiled and stroked his head one more time before leaving for Autumn Rain Pavilion, Shi Yurou and Concubine Jing followed her soon after. After all, it was not right for them to stay in the court when the mistress was not around.

As they were walking together, Shi Yurou said, “Sister-in-law is certainly incredible. Ming’er has always been such a little despot. That little brat refused to listen to Madam Yun and even dared to defy his father. To think that he would obey you after just a few words, I must prostrate myself before your might.”

Su Nuan Nuan said mildly, “What is this obedience you’re talking about? Have you not notice how I negotiated with him? Do you really think that Ming’er is a silly child who could be appeased with just a few words? He’s more likely to be disgusted with an attempt to trick him like a little child. However, if you treat him like an adult, he will respond like an adult. Even if his thoughts remain childlike, he would want to act mature. Therefore, ah, don’t think that children are easy to trick. On the contrary, they are very sharp and once they know that you’re not trustworthy, they won’t believe you anymore.”

Shi Yurou nodded in silence. Concubine Jing spoke up with a smile, “I’ve always known that Madam is wise when it comes to discerning people’s thoughts, I had not realised that you would understand little children as well. No wonder you can convince him.”

Su Nuan Nuan said, “I’ve been having them over at my place and spent so much time with those little children. How could I not know their characters? Enough, you two go and do your thing. Surely you’re not going to accompany me all the way to Autumn Rain Pavilion?”

At this not so subtle order, Shi Yurou and Concubine Jing left.

When Su Nuan Nuan reached Autumn Rain Pavilion, she did not hesitate as she made her way in. The little marquis was already at the hall. When he saw her, he quickly went over to take her arm and escorted her in. On the way, he said, “I’ve already made the arrangements. When the time comes, mother and the people from Count of Cheng Ming’s estate will be invited to sit behind a screen while the two of us sit in front and wait. Since my wife told me that this husband of yours does not understand the intricacies of inner court battles, you may take the lead and preside over the matter. I shall cooperate with you.”

“Good.”

Then, she could not resist giving her husband another narrow-eyed look before smiling. She whispered gently, “I feel so relieved to have a husband who has a good understanding of his weaknesses. It really reassures my heart.”

Duan Tingxuan, “… …”

Once they entered the hall, they saw Madam Yang already seated at the seat of honour, with Liu Min seated just next to her. Opposite Madam Yang was a dignified looking woman and beside her was a young man dressed in brocade and a fine piece of jade hanging off his belt. From the way he held himself, Su Nuan Nuan guessed that the young man must be the heir to the Count of Cheng Ming.

Right now, the eyes of the dignified looking woman were rather dark and gloomy. When she saw Duan Tingxuan escorting Su Nuan Nuan, a flash of anger flitted through her expression and she said in an odd voice, “Worthy son-in-law is certainly considerate. Had my daughter been allocated such degree of favour, perhaps today’s disaster might not have existed. I don’t believe that there exists a creature so daring as to touch the beloved of the Lord Heir.”

At this, Su Nuan Nuan understood that she was now facing the woman who had borne Xu Ran Yun into this world. From her husband’s narrowed eyes, she knew that Duan Tingxuan was feeling angry. She quickly shook her husband’s arm to stop him from saying anything. This woman had just lost her daughter and was now facing the son-in-law and a woman with a bad reputation.

It was natural for a mother to be angry.

 

[Gumihou: Woah, what is Xu Ran Yun’s mama like?]

 

[1] Use an Ox Blade to Kill a Chicken – Overkill

 

 

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