The Feast – 283 – Inner Court Investigation (Part 4)

The Feast – 283 – Inner Court Investigation (Part 4)

Chapter 283: Investigate the Inner Court (Part 4)

 

Translated by Gumihou

Edited by Vinisha

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“Yes.”

Seeing her mistress so composed, Long Yan too began to calm down. She quickly went off to carry out Xue Zhi Lan’s orders. Cai Sang came in to attend to Xue Zhi Lan. However, as she approached her mistress, Xue Zhi Lan’s sharp, knowing eyes raked her from head to toe and suddenly smiled, “It’s true what everyone says, filial piety enhances beauty. You are already a beautiful person, but plain white clothing brings out your beauty even more.”

Cai Sang’s voice was very soft, “Compared to Madam’s city shattering beauty, what is this maidservant’s face? How could the light of a firefly be compared to moonbeams?”

At this, Xue Zhi Lan grew even happier. She shook her head and said, “No wonder my brother wants you to serve him. Not only are you beautiful, but you are also witty with your words. I’ve given it much thought. Though you’re my dowry maid, you are of age to be married now. Becoming my brother’s concubine would be much deserving than attaching yourself to any of these random little male servants with barely any future to speak of…”

She had not finished speaking when Cai Sang suddenly fell to her knees with an audible [pu tong]. Cai Sang tearfully said, “Madam, this maid does not wish to become a concubine. Even if it’s to a lowly male servant, at the very least I shall be a proper wife. Please, would Madam please take pity on this maid?”

The smile on Xue Zhi Lan’s face froze, and she seemed to grow colder by the second. After some time she said gently, “What a silly thing you are. To think that you would throw away an opportunity to become a mistress of a noble house and life of luxury to be the wife of a servant? Do you think that all male servants are loyal lovers? Well, I had just praised you for being witty, but to think you have this foolish side to you as well. Enough, I shall reconsider. Stand up now.”

Though her eyes were blurred by tears, Cai Sang could clearly see the contempt on Xue Zhi Lan’s face and felt a chill striking right through her bones. After having served this mistress for over ten years, Cai Sang knew how well Xue Zhi Lan wields her honeyed tongue to hide the knives in her belly. From the expression on her mistress’ face, Cai Sang knew, though those beautiful lips claimed to ‘reconsider’, Xue Zhi Lan had already made up her mind. A bitter smile crossed her face as she thought of her own helplessness and inability to differentiate between good and bad. Anger and resentment boiled within her stomach even as she said, “Thank you, Madam.”

Cai Sang slowly stood up. Her hands, hidden in her sleeves, were clenched into fists as she took her place behind Xue Zhi Lan. As she cast her eyes down to hide her expression, she thought: Madam, you are the one who forced my hand. Concubine Jiang is right. You masters and mistresses are all the same, only know to eat our flesh and drink our blood and then spit us out when we’re no longer useful. What are the lives of slaves to you? Therefore, don’t blame me for not being righteous if you’re unkind. If you have even a trace of pity for me just now I would have confessed everything. I would have rather died than let you step into this trap. It’s just too bad that you have none… you felt absolutely nothing for this one.

Her mind was in a whirl as she trailed after Xue Zhi Lan. When she finally recovered, they were already standing before the gates of Autumn Rain Pavilion. She raised her head in time to see Xue Zhi Lan breathed in deeply once, put on a very dignified expression, before stepping through.

Cai Sang knew that the final part of the drama was about to be played out. Her mistress must be feeling very spirited at the moment. Unfortunately, this mistress of hers did not know that she was destined to be the villain of the piece, the loser in this little play. Out of loyalty, Cai Sang had appealed to this mistress of hers, offering one last lifeline before they crossed the line. However, her unfeeling behaviour just now had washed away even this one chance to escape her fate. Because Xue Zhi Lan did not see her maid as a flesh and blood person, she will lose everything today.

Preoccupied with their own thoughts, both mistress and servant finally arrived at the living room. Xue Zhi Lan came forward to give her greetings to Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan before saying, “Has My Lord and Madam some kind of plans? To have commanded this lowly one to muster up the entire force of Autumn Cloud Pavilion, may this one know the reason?”

Su Nuan Nuan took a sip of her tea first, without a flicker of an eyelid she said, “Nothing much, Cui Bing and Feng Xian had already confessed to entrapping the estate under the enticement of two low-level maids from Autumn Cloud Pavilion. I’ve invited sister to bring your people over merely to assist in the investigation. There’s no need for you to do or say anything, just sit there.”

Xue Zhi Lan meekly agreed and slowly made her way over to the seat by Duan Tingxuan’s side. She raised her head to flash a gaze at her husband through her gorgeous lashes. Her radiant and coquettish eyes would have set any man’s heart beating. It was just too bad that the little marquis was not in the mood to appreciate her beauty. The only thought in his mind now was Su Nuan Nuan’s physical condition. He was busy worrying over whether the trial/investigation was going to be too taxing on Su Nuan Nuan.

Feng Xian and Cui Bing quickly pointed out the maids they claimed to have inspired them into committing the crime. One was Fei Yan, and the other maid was quickly identified as Lang’er. When confronted, Lang’er and Fei Yan claimed they were just speaking casually to each other and had no idea that Feng Xian or Cui Bing had overheard them. Neither would admit to the charge of causing the other girls to commit the entrapment.

Su Nuan Nuan said mildly, “But you admit to having gossip over the matter? Heheh, to dare slander the Marquis Estate, do you think you can escape punishment from this? Someone come-”

“A moment please…” Xua Zhi Lan knew that she had to admit to this matter quickly and not let the girls be pressed into confessing like Feng Xian and Cui Bing. It would look better if she admits to the matter openly and seize the opportunity to make herself look good. She placed her teacup down and stared right at Su Nuan Nuan to say, “First Madam, there’s no need to scare those two little girls. I was the one who asked them to do it, isn’t this what you wanted to know?”

Su Nuan Nuan was a little surprised by this development. She had not expected Xue Zhi Lan to be so aggressive. A beat later, Duan Tingxuan snapped at her, “So it really is you? Lan’er, why would you do such a thing?”

“Why, you ask? Isn’t it because First Madam has grown swelled headed from being pregnant and receiving favour and affections from Old Madam and My Lord that she dared to use this opportunity to get rid of Sister Yun? Though Sister Yun is a secondary wife, she’s still a noble daughter from a Count’s family, ah. I- I can no longer stand to see First Madam stoop to such terrible actions with barely a flicker of her eyes. If I do not stand up for this now, am I to wait until I’ve suffered Sister Yun’s fate to regret my inaction?”

“What nonsense are you talking about? Who told you that Nuan Nuan is the culprit?”

While the little marquis was working up a head full of anger, Su Nuan Nuan’s perfectly calm voice said, “My Lord, quell your anger. We are meant to track down the culprit who had caused Sister Yun’s death. Sister Lan must have some information in hand to say such a thing. Since my conscience is clear, why should I be afraid to let her speak?”

Xue Zhi Lan sneered, “First Madam is very clever with her words. With such a righteous way of speaking, were I the Elder Madam or the Lord, I’m afraid I’d have swallowed your every lie.”

Su Nuan Nuan said gently, “You doubt me, that’s fine. I shall give my explanations after you speak. However, there is one thing I don’t quite understand. If you wish to seek justice for Sister Yun, why did you not bring the matter up with Elder Madam, the Lord Marquis or even the Old Madam? Why instigate Feng Xian and Cui Bing into entrapping the Marquis Estate before the Count’s people? Are you not a person of this estate? Or, is the reputation of the Marquis of An Ping nothing in your eyes?”

“That is not my intention.”

Of course, Xue Zhi Lan knew that she could not let Su Nuan Nuan drop this crime onto her head. Otherwise, she would be treated as an unfilial woman planning to revolt against her family. Once the senior madams and her husband accepted this charge, her reputation would be nothing more than a pile of rotting meat. If that were to happen, don’t mention noble families, even commoners would not accept such a treacherous daughter-in-law into their family.

Therefore, she quickly defended herself and said tremulously, “Though Sister Yun and I have our differences in the past, we have gotten much closer ever since the master abandoned us in favour of First Madam. With nothing much to occupy our time, what else could we do but stroll the gardens and talk with each other? We have long since buried our differences, this is something everyone knows. Now that Sister Yun had died under such terrible circumstances, I grieved terribly for her. Without anyone to depend on, and knowing that the culprit is someone who ‘Covers the Heaven with her Hand [1]’… who would I turn to?

With her cooking skills, she had blinded the eyes of the Old Madam, the Lord Marquis, Elder Madam and even My Lord Husband. How would I dare to cry my grief to the elders? They would think I’m merely slandering her. However, I could not stand the thought of poor Sister Yun being sent to the afterlife having been wronged like this. In the end, I could only come up with this silly plan. I had my two maids talk about the matter to instigate Cui Bing and Feng Xian to get the Count’s Estate involved, that way, no matter how the Old Madam or My Lords wish to cover up the matter, the Count’s Estate would never allow the people from this estate to sweep the matters away.”

 

[Gumihou: Woah, this Xue Zhi Lan is tricky.]

 

[1] Covers the Heaven with her Hand – An all powerful person

 

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