Chapter 282: Investigate the Inner Court (Part 3)
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Vinisha
Please read this at kitchennovel dot com
Anyone with an actual brain in their head would, with just a make a little extra effort on their part, that if two maids suddenly rushed over to their former masters to cry wolf, there must be something fishy about it. If they were innocent, they would have attempted to bring up the matter with their current masters first and only cry to their former masters as a final resort. Naturally, Su Nuan Nuan has her own suspicions on who the instigator behind this inexplicable move was, but in the end, it was all conjecture until these girls decided to cooperate.
Duan Tingxuan’s eyebrows lifted at this unexpected breakthrough and he leaned over to Su Nuan Nuan to say softly, “Congratulations madam for breaking them.”
“Thank you, My Lord, for your cooperation.” Su Nuan Nuan replied in a low voice. In order not to lose even an ounce of her dignity, Su Nuan Nuan remained rigidly seated and spoke in a very icy tone. Which caused the little marquis to feel a little embarrassed to have broken character so quickly.
Luckily, Feng Xian and Cui Bing were currently being dragged around, literally, and missed this moment of weakness. Both girls were thrown to the floor, and shaking as though someone had drenched them with ice water. Su Nuan Nuan maintained her silence, seemingly focused on her tea as the two felt the tension around them mount to unbearable heights. It did not take long before Feng Xian said with a tearful face, “Madam, i-if we reveal who instigated us, would our lives be spared?”
“As long as the one who harmed Madam Yun is not you…” Su Nuan Nuan started.
The two girls immediately called out, “Not us, it’s really not us, ah Madam. If we are the ones who harm Madam Yun, may the heavens strike us where we stand and scorch our bodies black, ah.”
“Enough, I trust that you would not do such a foolish thing either, otherwise you would not be alive to plead for your life today. Talk, who was the one who instigated you to cry foul before the people from the Count’s Estate to entrap the Marquis’ Estate? If you can prove that you’ve been deceived by others, you will not escape punishment, but you may keep your life. Or do you think that I am someone who kills people indiscriminately?”
Feng Xian and Cui Bing gulped and exchanged a look with each other. They knew that it would not be easy to pass today’s test. After some hesitation, Cui Bing said, “Th- that is to say… we cannot say that we are instigated, but we overheard Madam Lan’s maids talked about the matter. They said something about how Madam Yun’s death happened too quickly. How… the Count’s Estate would not let the matter rest easily knowing that Madam Yun must have died very unwillingly after eating lotus. As maids, we are the ones in charge of looking after her meals. Therefore, i-if the Count’s Estate demands compensation, the Marquis’ Estate could just find two maids and hand them over to be punished.
Who else but us, her closest maids, would be sent back to the Count’s Estate to be punished? We were so shocked that our spirits nearly left our bodies. And then… then while we were still standing there, stunned in shock, the maid said that if this had happened to her, she would not sit around and wait for death. At the very least, she would take a risk and tell the people from the Count’s Estate how the Marquis’ people had wronged Madam Yun and caused her death. How she would get them to seek justice for her. That way, even if the people from the Count’s Estate got angry, their anger would be directed to the Marquis’ Estate and she’d escape the wrath from both sides.”
When Cui Bing spoke up to this point, she stopped and glanced over at Feng Xian. Feng Xian gathered herself to lean forward and said in a voice rough with tears, “Madam is wise. Our senses were overwhelmed with fear and thought that- that if this is really true, how would we live on from now on? What… what those two maids said suddenly seems to make sense in our minds and we thought… that was it, we could do that. We could show our old masters whom we have served for many years until Madam Yun married over.
Surely, surely our old masters would take us in and show us pity? Perhaps, they might even take us back, seeing how our mistress is no longer with us. At… at that time we were truly, truly too afraid that we would be blamed for our Madam’s death. We… we never had even half a thought of entrapping the Marquis’ estate…”
“Enough. You still dare to quibble over the details now? Though Madam Yun’s death was sudden, there was absolutely no hint of foul play. Not a single person had pointed their fingers at you. But then you suddenly throw yourself before the people from the Count of Cheng Ming. If this is not entrapment, then what is it? What you have done is self-serving. For the sake of protecting your miserable life, you have thrown this estate into chaos. Very well, I see that you were confused, made foolish by your fear. You will not be put to death, but know this, you will be punished for your foolish actions.”
Su Nuan Nuan’s voice was stern as she laid down the law. Then she turned to Xing’er, “Remember this, once everything is over, send them to Concubine Jiang to be punished. Each maid gets 50 slaps on the mouth as a warning to the others.”
Xing’er accepted the order without hesitation. Cui Bing and Feng Xian were so happy that they were now crying tears of joy. Compared to being dragged around and accused of a crime they did not do and beaten to death with sticks, what’s 50 slaps to the mouth? It was as though they had just escaped from the jaws of death. So, of course, they could not be happier.
However, even as they were busy kowtowing and expressing their gratefulness to Su Nuan Nuan for not sending them to their deaths, they knew that the First Madam was not finished with them. For her to personally come out and preside over their trial, and yet did not order her own people to punish them meant that there was still more to come.
As expected, Su Nuan Nuan asked, “You say that you’ve overheard two of Madam Lan’s maids talking about the matter. Who are these maids? I want their names.”
Feng Xian said, “We only saw the backs of the two maids. I know one of them quite well, she’s Fei Yan, one of Madam Lan’s maids. As for the other, I do not know her personally, but if I were to see the silhouette of her back again, I would recognise her. It just occurred to this maid that since the Autumn Rain Pavilion was in such a turmoil yesterday, aside from the masters and mistresses, no one else would have dared to come in. Therefore, those maids must be Madam Lan’s personal maids.”
Su Nuan Nuan nodded. She turned to Xing’er, “You go find a few people and head over to Autumn Cloud Pavilion, have Madam Lan bring all of the maids from Autumn Cloud Pavilion over.
Again, Xing’er answered without hesitation and left to carry out her mission.
Please read this at kitchennovel dot com ~
Through this time, Xue Zhi Lan was currently freshening herself up at Autumn Cloud Pavilion. Long Yan carefully combed out her mistress’ long tresses. There was no one else in the room. Long Yan said softly, “Madam’s move yesterday was rather risky. Both the master and First Madam are very astute. Surely they would find Feng Xian and Cui Bing’s sudden cry for justice a little odd? Those two maids are rather weak-willed and self-serving. It would not take much to scare them into confessing. Even though Fei Yan or Lang’er had their backs to them, those maids of Madam Yun might still recognise them. If that happens, the fire would eventually find itself here, ah. Wouldn’t that be disastrous for Madam?”
Madam Lan drawled, “If even you can see the shortcomings of this plan, do you think I would be blind to it? However, we must risk much to achieve great things. Do you think that I would shy away from a little risk like this? Be at ease, I’ve already left an escape route for us.”
“Truly? This maid just can’t imagine what kind of escape route there could be under these circumstances. Once Feng Xian and Cui Bing confess, I’m sure we would be in trouble.” Long Yan was too astonished by Madam Lan’s remark.
Her astonishment only served to amuse Xue Zhi Lan, who laughed and said, “Silly maid, if your brain could only do so much, perhaps you shouldn’t take any risk. As I have mentioned, I am taking a risk, but this risk has a 60% chance of success. In fact, with my actions yesterday, I’ve increased the chances of winning.” At this, she sighed with satisfaction and muttered, “That is not to say that I won’t lose. I’m afraid of what the Lord would think of me once he realises it.”
Long Yan also sank into silence, unable to think of anything to say. Even without such matter between them, whenever Duan Tingxuan came over to Autumn Cloud Pavilion, it was mostly to see the children. The conversations between him and Madam Lan were almost akin to strangers without even a shred of a married couple’s affection.
Suddenly, Xue Zhi Lan laughed out loud, her mood buoyant again as she gnashed her teeth. “So what if that happens? As long as we kick that woman down and have her revert to her original face. The Lord may enjoy her shrewishness again… and then, heheh, with Xu Ran Yun dead, the one with real power within the main house will be me. Eventually, even the position of the First Wife will be mine.”
Long Yan said softly, “Madam, do you think this was really done by First Madam?”
“Of course she did not act on her own.” Xue Zhi Lan laughed again, but then her mood stabilized and she said mildly, “However, with her current authority and influence, do you think she would not be able to instigate a person or two? Just think, why did she visit her maternal home at such a critical date? In this entire estate, just how many people knew of Xu Ran Yun’s sensitivity against lotus roots? This matter could not be done by Cui Bing or Feng Xian, as for myself, I knew that I did nothing of the sort. Therefore, who was left?”
Long Yan thought for a moment before carefully answered, “Madam, your meaning is… Concubine Jiang?”
“Who else but she?”
Xue Zhi Lan laughed, then leaned back and drawled, “However, I must admit. One can’t blame Concubine Jiang after all. If I had been oppressed by Xu Ran Yun like that and forced into a corner by her vengeful attitude, I too would have taken the initiative to attack first. This is Xu Ran Yun’s fate for courting death, she looked down on Concubine Jiang too much and took her to be nothing but a weak and silly maid. She looked down on her former maid so much that she did not even bother to employ the most basic scheme to cover her tracks and just openly threatened the other.
She had no idea of the type of person she had angered. That Concubine Jiang might be cowardly, but she’s like a small, vicious animal that will bite and tear when cornered. To achieve her revenge, Concubine Jiang would turn into a vicious, calculating beast. That Madam Yun had died in the hands of someone she looked down was retribution indeed. Who asks her to go after Chuan’er that day? Now that Concubine Jiang has seen through her, of course, she would never forgive her.”
Long Yan’s hand trembled as she put up Xue Zhi Lan’s hair. Who was the one who asked Xu Ran Yun to harm Duan Maochuan? She, of all people, know that Xu Ran Yun had been led, by her mistress step by step, into taking this drastic step. Now her mistress is speaking about retribution as though it had nothing to do with her. However, this maid’s heart was not reassured at all, ah. If there really is retribution, then neither she nor her mistress would escape fate’s hand, ah. Just why did mistress start talking about retributions? Isn’t this just like cursing herself?
Xue Zhi Lan did not notice her personal maid’s expression, preoccupied as she was about her deductions. “The only issue is, that Concubine Jiang is too cowardly. This woman would never have acted so boldly unless instigated by someone. There must be a hidden figure fanning the flames on one hand and promising all kinds of benefits on the other for her to make a move. Who else could have done so but her great rescuer, the great First Madam?”
At this, Cai Sang suddenly ran in, her voice trembling with panic as she cried, “Madam, not good. Matron Liang has arrived with several female servants. They say they’re here under First Madam’s orders. Madam, you have been ordered to bring all your maids and servants to Autumn Rain Pavilion immediately for questioning.”
Long Yan’s face turned white, and she said, “Madam, what should we do? Feng Xian and Cui Bing must have cracked and given up the names of Fei Yan and Lang’er. Madam, what should we do now?”
“Why are you so afraid? So what if their names are given up? I never did expect those good for nothings to manage even this much.”
Xue Zhi Lan was not moved at all by the commotion. She stood up and swiftly examined her reflection, noting the clothes and accessories on her person: A plain white dress and a white tea camellia on her head enhanced her already shocking beauty. She turned a half-circle before the mirror before saying to Long Yan, “Give orders to gather all the maids and female servants in the courtyard. I shall lead them over to Autumn Rain Pavilion.”
Author White Pear Flower: I think by now everyone understands the meaning of ‘No Zhuo No Die’, right? Hohoho!
[Gumihou: … do you believe that Xue Zhi Lan had nothing to do with it?]
If you love my translations, do consider putting a review at novelupdates!