Chapter 292: To Walk Alongside
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Onionpi
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“Are you… are you saying that Xu Ran Yun was not harmed by Xue Zhi Lan, but by… you?” Su Nuan Nuan’s face twisted. When Concubine Jiang lowered herself to her knees, she knew that she had guessed right. It took her a long time to muster herself to say, “Why?”
“Because Madam Yun will never let go of Chuan’er or me; because she had been seen walking with Madam Lan, and I was afraid that she was plotting to harm First Madam. If Madam was harmed, then, then Chuan’er and I would lose our sole protector. Because First Madam is not the type to attack unprovoked, I made up my mind to attack first because she who attack first has the advantage.” Concubine Jiang had no idea whether it is because she had been suppressing this secret for too long or whether some kind of animal cunning had urged her on, but when Su Nuan Nuan finally guessed the truth, she lost all inhibitions and admitted everything.
“So, it was all because of me…” Su Nuan Nuan was stunned. She looked away and began muttering to herself, but before she could continue with her self-blame Concubine Jiang said urgently, “No, no, it was not for First Madam. This lowly one did it all for myself. For my Chuan’er. It has absolutely nothing to do with Madam.”
Su Nuan Nuan fell silent. Her mood was very complicated right now. After a long time, she said, “That day, when your Lord escorted Count’s Heir Xu to the Su House and together with their retinue, they rounded up those people still squatting there. It did not take them long to confess that Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zhi Lan had arranged for them to enter the Su House to harm me. With this, added to the crime of arranging the murder of Chuan’er, the Count’s Heir was finally ready to give up his quest for justice.
Since Xue Zhi Lan was involved in the matter and had also admitted to instigating Xu Ran Yun into harming Chuan’er, not even the Xue family dared to say anything either. In the end, you’re right. If you had not tipped over the first domino in this wretched business, who could say what my situation would be like now? I feel like, like I should thank you for bringing all this terrible business to light.”
“Madam, please don’t say this. This lowly one has mentioned it before. This matter has nothing to do with Madam. In the end, things happened out of this lowly one’s selfishness…”
Tears began to fall from Concubine Jiang’s eyes. But it was not tears of gratitude or desire for pity. She knew, in her heart of hearts, that everything she did was truly not for Su Nuan Nuan. Her tears came from a painful sorrow deep in her heart. To think, that even under such circumstances, this First Madam was willing to be fair. First Madam was even generous enough to thank a lowly concubine and former servant like for doing this utterly selfish thing.
“Xu Ran Yun has already suffered retribution for harming others. Xue Zhi Lan was clever and deliberately vicious, and going crazy is a fitting end for her. In the end, what you did was to retaliate against their vicious actions… therefore, I believe that there’s no need for you to feel guilty. However, you have also arranged for someone’s death and framed your crime on others. Therefore, if taking care of Xue Zhi Lan gives you peace and tranquillity, I shall grant your wish.”
“Yes, this lowly one thanks First Madam for her understanding.”
Concubine Jiang spent a long time within the Buddhist Hall and rarely went out. On the times she did go out for a stroll in the garden, she would see Xue Zhi Lan sitting by herself, looking blankly into space. Duan Maochuan often came over to see her and would tell her about Duan Maofan and Duan Maosen’s misery at seeing their mother in that state. Their mother did not even recognise her sons. Though she instinctively wished to get closer to the two children, she would suddenly withdraw and would sometimes go into hysterics when they touched her. In the end, the two children could only stare at their mother mournfully from across the room.
The story stabbed Concubine Jiang unexpectedly in her conscience and guilt began to develop in her heart. Though this woman had plotted against her son, hadn’t Concubine Jiang had also plotted and carried out murder against another and threw this black pot over Xue Zhi Lan’s head? Though she did not regret her actions and would carry it out again in a heartbeat… the feelings in her heart would not let her rest. She felt that she must somehow atone for her actions.
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When she stepped out of the Buddhist Hall, Su Nuan Nuan noticed that it had been drizzling for a while now. The pavement and flowers were all covered in a light mist, and just a little way away stood the little marquis with an umbrella. Behind him, the willow tree bowed and waved under the strain of its wet leaves, the maple tree with its bright red leaves, the sound of rushing water under the small bridge, all signalled the magical embrace of autumn.
The scene was as perfect as a painting and Su Nuan Nuan could not help but be reminded of the time at Jiang Nan when she first caught glimpse of that beautiful scholar Lu Fengyu. For a moment, she wondered, what had happened to that man in the painting now?
“I know you like this one, so I especially brought it over for you.”
Stepping closer, the little marquis handed her an umbrella. She saw that it was a wax paper umbrella with a Gongbi  art on it. The meticulously drawn peach blossoms and kingfisher could be seen on the outside of the Jiang Nan wax paper umbrella. When she opened it, the blooming peach blossoms and bright kingfisher seemed to come alive under the mild rain. Su Nuan Nuan could not help but beam at the sight of such beauty.
As husband and wife strolled along the garden path, the rain increased in strength and the little marquis sighed, “A spell of rain brings a spell of cold. Once this rain is over, the weather would get much colder again.”
“I know the truth now.” Su Nuan Nuan said suddenly.
The sudden remark caused the little marquis to tighten his fist around his umbrella handle. However, he was able to laugh lightly and said, “Do you? I knew that it is impossible to hide things from you, but I had not realised that you will find out so soon. That Wan Fang is quite clever, why is she so useless this time?”
“Wei! Are you trying to say that I am stupid? I’m quite ready to kick you for that, you know?” Su Nuan Nuan turned and stared straight at Duan Tingxuan.
The little marquis was unexpectedly relieved by her careless threat. He had been quite worried that Su Nuan Nuan would be very angry at him for hiding the truth from her. He had not known that this obstacle could be passed so easily. Pleased, he laughed and said, “I dare not, of course, I dare not. Dear wife, please don’t misunderstand this husband.”
“Concubine Jiang said that she would like to have Xue Zhi Lan moved to the Buddhist Hall. She and Long Yan would be able to care for Madam Lan better together.” Su Nuan Nuan sighed. “I’ve already agreed to it.”
“That’s fine with me, ah. You should decide on matters like this.” Duan Tingxuan nodded.
Suddenly Su Nuan Nuan turned and stared into his eyes. She said, “Why did things turn out like this? Please tell me. Why is it that these graceful and beautiful young women all ended up in such unfortunate circumstances?”
“The first reason is, good and evil will bring their own rewards. As for the second… the fault lies with me.” the little marquis sighed. He was truly sorrowful when he said, “If I had not lusted after their looks, these women would not have ended up so miserable and lonely.”
“Oh, but isn’t it only proper to have three wives and four concubines? How could you be at fault?”
“Nuan Nuan, what are you trying to say?” sensing something wrong, the little marquis decided to step carefully. His wife was behaving very oddly today.
Now that her husband had questioned her directly, Su Nuan Nuan stopped circling around the subject and said straightforwardly, “What I want to say is this: Just because it is proper doesn’t make it right. In the first place, having three wives and four concubines is wrong. How could it bring in good fortune? Having too many women in the inner court only brings disaster. Only vulgar, greedy men with low principles and too much heat in their loins would think that having an overstuffed inner court a blessing.
Those pigs have never known a woman’s love and would never be loved by women. When women don’t love those piggish men, they would not feel jealousy against each other and could therefore live in harmony. Only remarkable men like you are the ones who would know the true happiness between a man and a woman.”
“Yes, this husband understands.” Duan Tingxuan nodded agreeably. Then, he stopped and asked suspiciously, “But, why are you bringing this up? Surely there’s no need to expound on this subject anymore? This husband could never look at another woman in this lifetime. My heart and thoughts all belong to Nuan Nuan. We shall be together until our hair grows white with age.”
Perhaps his wife wanted him to reassure her with his loyalty?
“You? Of course, I’m not worried about you.” Su Nuan Nuan laughed. “I’m talking about our children. Those boys are similar to you and each of them are outstanding in their own unique ways. Therefore, I shall not allow them to have three wives and four concubines. The women in the inner court will scratch each other’s eyes out and bring disasters to our poor boys’ lives. Ah, poor dears, I’d probably be stressed out by all the infighting in their courtyard and age prematurely. Stress is very bad for women you know…”
“Wait, wait, are you saying that our sons will… only have one woman in their lives?” the little marquis hurriedly cut in, only to see Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes flash at him. “What’s this? Is My Lord against it? Are you that eager to see me age prematurely?”
“Oh… I… have nothing against it.”
My sons, ah. Your father has wronged you. However, your mother is right too. Having too many women brings nothing but temporary fun and long-lasting disasters. Just look to your poor father as a bad example, ah.
Su Nuan Nuan was very satisfied with her husband’s statement. She nodded and continued, “Not only the boys, but we also have two girls in our family. When the time comes, we must select a good son-in-law. We must be very strict and eliminate all those pigs who could not bear the idea of having only one woman in their family. Yes, this rule is excellent for rooting out all men with low character. Only kind and noble men are allowed to marry our daughters.”
“Wait, wait, Nuan Nuan.” Duan Tingxuan quickly tried to stop his wife. “It’s one thing to decide for the boys. After all, the women would marry into our homes. However, when it comes to sons-in-law, surely we can’t… decide for other families, right? If you fix such a rule, our daughters might never get married.”
“We will reserve the right to make the final decision for our daughters. If such a man does not exist, then it’s fine if they don’t get married. Being single is better than becoming the wife of a lusty pig. If one day she turns to us with smiles that are more bitter than tears after being harmed by a vicious concubine…” Su Nuan Nuan trailed off. Just who was nearly harmed by second wives in your inner court? Whose concubine plotted murder in his court? The little marquis winced at all that was unsaid. 
She made it clear that these were iron-clad rules. No room for negotiation.
A gust of autumn wind blew through the trees. The rain came down even stronger, bringing the cold with them. Several boys from the An Ping Estate, the Chang Ping estate as well as the Rong Wang estate suddenly shivered.
A few even began to tremble…
[Gumihou: Hahaha, this is so brilliant. Su Nuan Nuan is going to make all of your lives miserable.]
This is the last chapter for this novel. Everyone, I’m so happy to share this story with you. Please stay tuned for further extra 4 chapters.
Also, I’m going to put Zhao Cai’s pic on every chapter from here on, because I missed him!!!
 Gongbi – also known as ‘Court-style’ painting. Emphasises on meticulous drawing with emphasis on the beauty of lines.
 Okay, I added that bit because the ending came a little too quickly and not dramatic enough for me.
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