Chapter 9: Laying Plans (1)
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
Seeing the maids trying to push each other, and even the children, forward to perform this unpleasant task, Fu Qiuning found herself feeling both amused and furious. She walked to them and said, “That person has been gone for a long time now, what are you still sneaking around here for? I wonder, even though Young Marquis is not a good man, he’s not a man-eating wolf. So why are you so frightened?
Also, what bad things are you teaching the children? No matter what, that person is their father. He might not pity them but it’s not like he will suddenly beat them for no reason. Surely even that kind of person can’t be lower than beasts.” As she spoke, she came over and picked up Changjiao. She held Changfeng’s hands and said to Yu Jie, “Hurry up and make your noodles. It’s getting dark and my stomach’s crying for food.”
It was not long before the noodles were brought to the living room where Fu Qiuning and the two children continued with their storytelling session. Yu Jie and Aunt Yu had already rolled out the noodles when the children ran in with the news that Jin Fengju was in the courtyard. The two women were so frightened that they stopped whatever they had been doing and hid like frightened mice in the kitchen, not daring to even make a sound for fear it would attract the young marquis and call his wrath upon their heads.
Thus, all four huddled in the kitchen. None of them dared to even peek into the living room. It was only after Fu Qiuning came in and scolded them did the maids open up the pots and begin to boil the broth and cut the noodles.
Fu Qiuning sat with the children at the same table. She personally served them from a small serving pot, speaking to Yu Jie who was already eating her share of noodles at a different table. “Did you cook these a little longer? The children are still young, noodles that are too firm could give them indigestion.”
Yu Jie smiled, “Surely this is something Madam need not order? The noodles are soft and tender, Young Master and Young Miss can eat them with ease.”
Fu Qiuning nodded, she fished out all the meat in the pot and put them into Changfeng and Changjiao’s little bowls. The children eagerly ate a piece and their eyes widened with shock. Changfeng waved his empty chopsticks, “Mother, what’s this? It’s so fragrant and delicious.”
That sentence nearly caused Fu Qiuning to burst into tears, she quickly turned her head and flicked off the teardrops from the corner of her eyes. Aunt Yu sadly said, “The children are already this old, yet they do not know the taste of simple cured meat.”
Suddenly, she stood up. She picked out all the meat in her bowl with her chopsticks, clearly intending to transfer the meat into the children’s bowl. Yu Jie also stood up.
Fu Qiuning quickly waved a hand at them. “Sit down, everyone sit down. There’s no need to be like this. Our days might not look good now and we might have to tighten our belts a little in the future. However, that’s cured meat. It might be fragrant and delicious but it’s not good for three-year-olds to eat too much. It will just give them indigestion. In the future, just buy some fresh meat for them.”
Yu Jie and Aunt Yu looked a little unwilling, but sat down in the end.
Fu Qiuning looked at Changfeng and Changjiao. After knowing how terrible their living conditions had been she was a little worried to see them slurping up the noodles and chomping on the meat eagerly. She was afraid that they would overeat and make themselves sick. After their little bowls were empty, she hardened her heart against their pleading eyes to say, “Now, now, it’s good that you enjoyed your meals. However, don’t forget you’re still only three years old. Your little bodies won’t be able to withstand too much food. Do you want to get sick? If you get sick you will cost me money. Money that could be used to buy more delicious food. Now tell me again, do you want a second bowl?”
The two children stared longingly at the pot of noodles. However, their bellies were already bulging with food. Although they licked their lips, both obediently put down their chopsticks and looked at Fu Qiuning with sparkling eyes.
After dinner was over, the children were washed and tucked up on their own kang bed. There were regular beds in the Night Breeze Pavilion, but Fu Qiuning really liked the old fashion kang beds that were unique to an era without electrical heating systems or electric blankets. Once the stove under the bed was lit up, it was very warm. Snuggling on a soft mattress on a heated kang bed under a brocade quilt, how luxurious and wonderful life is, ah?
Once the two children fell asleep, Fu Qiuning personally tucked the brocade quilt over them before returning to the living room. Aunt Yu and Yu Jie were waiting for her. She sat down and gave them a little glare. “I told you earlier that I will be settling accounts with you, didn’t I? Know this, I am not joking. We are now isolated from the rest of the estate. If we don’t find a way to live, we will all eventually starve to death. Personally, I don’t care about having less to eat or wear but what about Changfeng and Changjiao? They are innocents caught up in a bad situation. We cannot let them suffer anymore. Therefore, now is the time to count up all of our money and make serious plans for the future.”
Yu Jie and Aunt Yu bowed their heads. Aunt Yu suddenly cried, “For the poor to lean on the poor… If I had known how difficult Madam’s situation is, this maid would never have come here with the children…”
Her lamentations were cut off by Fu Qiuning’s light laughter, “Enough with that nonsense. We may have been abandoned by the marquisate, however, this also means we have fallen away from the eyes of those struggling for power inside the estate. The Young Marquis has several wives and concubines jostling for his favour and power, but don’t forget, that’s only one side of the faction. There’s the Old Marquis’ faction as well as the Second Master’s faction.
Do you think the Second Master, with his wives, concubines and children would live happily together after being overlooked as heir? Think about it, three large factions fighting internally for power, dozens of women fighting and tearing each other to pieces with hidden knives and poisoned arrows to gain favour. Think again of our position. How many servants do we have? With no strong maternal family to back us, we are the softest persimmon in this wretched place.
Aunt Yu, you came to us at the right time. Now that I have recognised the children as my own, you must remember to call them by their titles. Call them Feng’er and Jiao’er when no others are around. However, you must remember to address them as Young Master and Young Miss. Others might disrespect us but we must not disrespect ourselves. Moreover, as blood children of the Young Marquis, these titles belonged to them anyway.”
Aunt Yu quickly replied, “Yes, now that those two… ah, that is, Young Master and Young Miss are now Madam’s children. Of course, they should be addressed that way. This maid had been negligent. Only, this maid is sorry for Madam’s situation…”
Fu Qiuning raised her hand to stop Aunt Yu again. She smiled, “Will you stop with such alienating words? I shall tell you the truth, without Feng’er and Jiao’er, there will be nothing but emptiness in my life. Do you think there’s any possibility for the Young Marquis to have children with me?”
At this, Aunt Yu and Yu Jie fell silent. Both understood in their heart of hearts, even if Fu Qiuning possessed the looks of a celestial in flight, it would be very difficult to gain the Young Marquis’ favour due to the fractured relationship between Zhenjiang Palace and Jinxiang Marquisate. Therefore, the chances of having children would, of course, be very low.
“Alright, enough about that matter. As long as you understand, it’s fine. Do not worry about them. Now, back to settling accounts. Yu Jie, tell me honestly, how much of my dowry is left?” The original Fu Qiuning was a sad girl stuck in the middle of a heartbreak. Aside from focusing on her depression and loneliness, she did pretty much nothing all day. Therefore, Yu Jie was the one who took care of her property.
Yu Jie sighed and said: “Because the estate heavily docked Madam’s allowance each month, we had to rely on selling the dowry to live a decent life. Fortunately, Madam married into the Jinxiang Marquisate as the main wife, therefore the dowry was not too meagre. However, it could not be considered rich either. Right now, there are only three boxes of various jewellery, six rolls of brocade and the furniture within the house left. Basically, things that could not be sold. All that could be sold are almost gone.”
Yu Jie fetched two camphor wood boxes and showed Fu Qiuning their contents. Indeed, there were only those remaining jewellery as well as the brocade cloth.
Fu Qiuning checked her memories and found that the majority of the value in her dowry was in furniture, things that were shiny but could not be eaten or sold. She frowned at the shiny furniture. Zhenjiang Palace did not care whether she lived or died, but the marriage still had to look good on the surface.  Perhaps they were hoping she’d die here so that they could cause more trouble for the Jinxiang Marquisate? As for the marquisate, they were stupid enough to go along with this and forced her to sell her dowry for food and living expenses. What if she dies here? Were they really that stupid?
Fu Qiuning opened the box of ornaments and picked through silver hairpins and other small shiny things. Even if they pawn everything in this box, they would probably only get a few dozen silver taels. If they live frugally, five people could live on this for maybe two or three years. As for the brocade, she’ll need fancy clothes for whatever reason in the future, right? Since clothes make the man or something like that.
Also, it’s not like she’ll get much money out of them anyway.
[Gumihou: Who do we blame in this kind of situation?]
 Gumihou: Added reason why it’s actually stupid to starve Fu Qiuning to the point where she had to sell her dowry for living expenses
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