Chapter 2: First Blood
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
After the noodles were eaten, Yu Jie deftly packed the detritus of their meal away. Fu Qiuning looked at the small folding stool on the ground, she privately sighed and thought: Fu Qiuning, ah, Fu Qiuning. You had such a caring person right next to you this whole time, but you still indulged in such classist attitude. What do you think would happen if you ate at the same table together?
After such a precedent, Fu Qiuning dare not simply invite her maid to eat together at the table. That would attract too many questions. Still, it’s rather meaningless to eat alone. Sigh… You poor woman. Already at a disadvantage thanks to the feudal society and yet still isolating yourself even behind closed doors. Hopefully, you will be reborn into the modern era and live life as a free and happy career woman.
After the meal, there was nothing much to do but lie in bed. The warm afternoon sunshine was making Fu Qiuning drowsy. It was the beginning of spring, willow trees were sprouting, peach and apricot trees were budding. The spring breeze was gentle, nothing like the cold and bitter north wind. As Fu Qiuning stared at the plain ceiling and sank slowly into sleep, her final thought was: Hey, I crossed over during a really nice season.
Some time passed, who knows how long but Fu Qiuning was suddenly awakened by soft speaking voices. She got up from the bed and looked out the window in a daze. The voices came from shadowy figures standing at their front door. Yu Jie was blocking their small doorway with arms outstretched like a faithful guardian. Her angry hissing whispers reached Fu Qiuning’s ears, “You do not believe me? If you do not believe my words, you are welcome to see with your own eyes. The marks on Madam’s neck have yet to dissipate and she has suffered for so many months, yet you brought these two dirty things here? Why should our Madam care for them? Is it not enough to merely withhold our Madam’s allowance, so you want to add these two mouths here?
There is not a single coin to be found in this courtyard, are you planning to starve us to death? Very good, once our Madam returns to her maiden home we’ll beg his highness the prince for justice. I ask you, what has this house done for us? How dare you pressure our Madam to the point of suicide!”
This Yu Jie’s mouth was surprisingly powerful, perhaps stirred up by Fu Qiuning’s suicide attempt, she no longer minced words with others. The speech was so powerful that even the maids outside were rendered speechless.
Fu Qiuning got out of bed and peeked through the window. A particularly beautiful maid was acting as the leader in front of the other maids. She glowered at Yu Jie and opened her mouth a few times to speak, but ended up saying nothing.
It was really kind of hard to defend herself from Yu Jie’s accusations.
After all, no matter how one tried to twist the facts, Fu Qiuning really did hang herself from on the rafters. If she had died within the Marquisate, would Prince Hong let go of this golden opportunity to suppress the Marquisate of Jinxiang and reduce Prince Rong’s influence? Even insignificant maids like them knew they were on thin ice. If word got out that they were the ones who cast the final stone that started this avalanche, would their master hesitate about throwing their pitiful lives to the wolves? In short, how could she dare to act rashly?
Behind this pretty looking maid was an older woman in her 30s who was dragging 2 children along by the hand. Even for spring, their clothes were far too thin and ragged. Their little heads bowed as they stared at their feet. Now and then, the sound of snot being sniffed back into their noses was heard. These children were clearly very badly treated.
Fu Qiuning sighed privately: No wonder they are not well-liked. Low status aside, who would like dirty looking brats like these? Especially in such a clean and snobby marquisate?
At first, she thought to just let the matter solve itself. After all, if Fu Qiuning the First had hung herself to force Jin Fengju to retract the order to take the children in, then would it not be strange if she were to turn around and take them in now? Logically speaking, she should not. However, looking at the two miserable children and grim-faced woman, she could not help the sudden well of compassion in her heart.
She was about to say something when the pretty maid stomped her feet and sneered, “Good, very good, ah! To think that even a lowly servant dares to speak to me like that. Just wait, I will report this matter to the Madam. You just wait,”
After this final vent, she turned, roughly pushed the little girl aside and snapped, “Scram back! There’s no place for vulgar dirty rats like you in this place. Send them back to Mister Ming, prepare to throw them out to the farmstead later.”
The children whimpered, not daring to cry out loud as the pretty maid stomped away.
“Enough. Yu Jie, take them in.” Fu Qiuning said as she exited her room.
Her voice was so unexpected that Yu Jie actually jumped, before hurrying back and exclaiming, “Madam, why are you up? No need to quarrel with these people. Just rest a little more. Everything will be fine. Miss Xia Yue will be taking them away. Those children have nothing to do with us…”
From her vantage point by the door, Fu Qiuning saw the pretty little maid stop and turn around. There was disbelief on her face.
Fu Qiuning repeated, “Leave them behind and go.”
Xia Yue recovered her poise and a smug smile played about her lips as she sneered, “Well, why not say so earlier? Still imagining yourself as the face of Zhenjiang Palace? After all those frightening words and that pointless play, you still obediently swallow these two dirty things.” She pushed the girl forward. “Well, go on. That kind-hearted madam is going to take you in. Remember to work hard or you’ll be scolded and beaten. You’ll deserve it too.” The little girl would have fallen if that grim-faced servant had not been holding her hand. Something snapped inside Fu Qiuning.
“What was that? A play is it? You think I was just playing? Very well, let us go and meet your Madam. Shall we wait together for the Young Marquis for his judgement? If the Young Marquis wants me to move out, that’s fine too. I don’t mind returning to Zhenjiang Palace. After all, I am shameless. I don’t care about causing a scene. If I die, those vixens surrounding the Young Marquis will not have a good life anyway. In fact, why don’t we go now?”
Fu Qiuning stared at Xia Yue, her eyes cool and contemptuous. The smile on her face was more like a sneer and Xia Yue shivered. Of course, she would not dare let Fu Qiuning out and cause a ruckus. The person who would be blamed would be her, ah! Her face turned red, then white, then red again before she finally gritted her teeth and clasped her hands to the side, knees bending in a respectful bob and whispered, “This maid has misspoken. Would madam please overlook the matter,”
After this, she cast a final poisonous glare in Fu Qiuning’s direction before fleeing the scene with her flock.
“Crossing words with  little vixens who borrowed a tiger’s might is beneath my dignity. However, I cannot overlook her cruelty towards these children.” Fu Qiuning turned to Yu Jie and sighed. “In truth, I have no intention of keeping them. However, now that I have seen them, I cannot help but recall my own childhood. Aih! How terrible it is to bear so much misfortune at such a young age. Enough, lead them in, Yu Jie.”
When Fu Qiuning was married off, Yu Jie had been specially chosen to be her handmaiden. Eldest Prince Zhenjiang realised that this daughter of his has no practical skills and had sent Yu Jie along as support. Fu Qiuning was only good at the qin, chess, calligraphy and painting with little to no skills in scheming or seduction. The more capable daughters had been sent off to seize power within the inner courts of other princes and noble houses. Yu Jie had been purchased for her outstanding skills and ended up wasting her talents in Fu Qiuning’s courtyard. After all, there was very little need to spy or scheme when one’s mistress was so universally despised.
Moreover, since Yu Jie had only been with Fu Qiuning during her short married life, all she saw was how her mistress had suppressed her rage and swallowed her words during the 10 months of serving her. She had no idea what Fu Qiuning was like before her marriage. Seeing how her mistress had made that Jiang woman’s maid salute and apologise before fleeing their courtyard, she assumed that Fu Qiuning had had enough and was finally showing her true colours. That attempted suicide must have somehow enlightened her and she grew a spine of steel after suffering this humiliation. Yu Jie was looking forward to life after this.
Still, she was not at all happy about having these three extra people in their house.
[Gumihou: The pure and untainted young master xxx a widow and already had kids that could walk… haizzz…]
Pill Bug TL Notes: 狐假虎威的小人
Gumihou: little vixens who exploits a tiger’s might – adjusted to fit inner court scenario the fox exploits the tiger’s might
= To use powerful connections to intimidate people Jarring transition here, suddenly bringing up Xia Yue’s behaviour out of nowhere. Fixed
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