Chapter 13: A Carefree Song
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
After he was done with his various errands, Jin Ming returned to his master’s study. Just as he was about to enter, he saw Xu’shi in the room along with a bowl of lotus seed soup on the desk. He quickly stopped himself from pushing the door open and retreated to the side.
Jin Fengju took a snow-white handkerchief from Xu’shi’s hand and wiped his mouth before handing it back carelessly with a smooth, “You should return. You’re also pregnant, so let the maids handle these kinds of things in the future. Be careful about harming the foetus.”
“Those bunch of vixens are all hoping to pull something strange before the Master, so how could this humble woman be at ease about them?”
However, despite her protest, she still pouted her lips and picked up her bowl. Still, it was only after a long-winded admonishment for Jin Fengju to look after his health et cetera et cetera in so many words, before she finally felt pleased enough to leave.
Jin Ming secretly watched his master’s expression and saw that aside from a trace of mocking irony, there was very little else on that face. He sighed: All these madams and concubines are very hardworking and motivated to capture a single man’s attention. If it had been anyone else, they would have long since been charmed. Too bad they married his master. Of course, he’s an excellent man but how much of his heart is devoted to love?
Even the Second Madam, look at how tenderly the master treats her. Those who do not know the situation would think that she was absolutely drowning in affection, but is that really love? I have served this master for many years and I’ve never heard him mention Second Madam, the supposed beloved cousin, in all those years I’ve served him. In truth, whose scheme could ever be as deep or profound as the Young Marquis’?
“What are you thinking about? So lost in thought?” Jin Fengju’s voice shocked Jin Ming out of his reverie and he quickly answered with a flattering smile, “To reply Master, this servant was just thinking that Master is really blessed. Surely Concubine Xu is about five or six months pregnant? Yet, she did not forget to send lotus seed soup to Master.”
“That’s the most basic method of currying favour. It’s fine if others do not know. But if you don’t know this much, do I still need to keep you by my side?” Jin Fengju smiled mildly. Then, he turned away and said, “The items have been sent? What did she have to say?”
“To reply the Young Marquis, the Young Master and Young Miss are now wearing brand-new cotton padded jackets. Madam explained that Young Miss and Young Master’s appearance yesterday was due to the lateness of the hour and lack of preparation. Madam said they rushed to make clothes for the children and I saw with my own eyes the padded cotton jackets on them. She also asked me to convey her thanks to Young Marquis for taking the trouble to think about them, saying that there’s no need to worry about anything as they have no shortage of food, clothing or other expenses.”
Jin Fengju’s sword-like eyebrows came together in a slight frown. His slender fingers gently tapped the table for a while before faintly smiling, “This surnamed Fu is quite interesting, to think I cannot guess her true intentions. Enough, whatever her intention is, it has nothing to do with me. Since she herself has said it, there’s no need to bother with that side in the future.”
Jin Ming made a sound of agreement, thinking: Look, look, look! This is our Young Marquis! You have certainly miscalculated things, ah, Fu’shi ah, Fu’shi. I hope you can get used to true loneliness. Otherwise, your future days would only become more and more difficult.
No one knew about this conversation between Jin Fengju and Jin Ming. Not even Jiang Wanying, who has planted eyes all over the estate, knew that her husband had sent a few rolls of satin to Night Breeze Pavilion. The matter had been carried out seamlessly.
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Night Breeze Pavilion.
Fu Qiuning, Aunt Yu and Yu Jie managed to finish two sets of spring clothing by the second day. While the children were happily running about outside in their new clothes, the ladies picked out a roll of white satin from the pile sent by Jin Ming and got to work making crafts. Simple purses, handkerchiefs and small scented bags decorated with simple but exquisite embroidery were quickly made and on the third day, handed over to Zhang San to be sold.
Before evening fell, Zhang San returned with a few strings of coins. A few strings of coins is worth a few taels of silver, and to the women of the courtyard who barely have a few dozen silver taels left to their name, making this much on their first try was quite promising.
According to Zhang San, their handicraft sold well and at slightly higher prices at the stores due to their good quality. This was a great delight for the three of them. Yu Jie laughed, “This maid used to embroider flowers for sale but never earned this much before. This good fortune must be due to Madam and Aunt Yu’s excellent hands.”
The next few days passed quickly. In a blink of an eye, the apricot and peach trees were in bloom and the entire Marquisate of Jinxiang was adorned in brilliant red and green. Nor were the foliage the only beauty to be seen, as feminine laughter filled the gardens. Young maids still at that romantic age busily chased and teased each other in the gardens, creating a lively atmosphere.
Although Fu Qiuning did not go out and only spectated from a distance, she could perceive that the wealth of the Jinxiang Marquisate is at a level higher than the Jia family in <<Dream of the Red Chamber>>. That Jia family could be thought of as rich and prosperous, especially around the period when Jia Yuanchun married into the imperial family as the Imperial Consort . That was the time when the Grand Viewing Garden of the Jia family could barely be contained by the single word ‘extravagant’.
However, from Yu Jie’s description, the Jinxiang Estate gardens were far wider and more exquisite than the Grand Viewing Garden of the Jia family. It contained the residences of several young ladies still living with the family. Not only that, but there was also another beautiful garden, constructed especially for the day of the emperor’s visit. This garden was cared for by a few selected people and no one dared to live inside that place.
To date, only the Old Madam, the Marquis and his wife, the Young Marquis, the Second Master as well as a few other highly placed masters could bring their families in. Ordinary servants would just stay outside.
However, this had nothing to do with Fu Qiuning. Her current goal was to work hard, earn money, live in relative comfort and raise those two children with care. As for strolling those fancy gardens… it was too bad but she’d rather not invite trouble.
The sun shone brightly that day.
Fu Qiuning watched as the two children ran around in the yard, sweating a little in their cotton padded jackets. She called them over, wiped their sweat off and ordered Auntie Yu to help them change into their spring outfits.
She was just looking fondly in the direction the children skipped off when Yu Jie came running in to say, “Zhang San bought the seeds for us. We can plant them in the next two days. Also, there are a lot of wild vegetables growing in the front and backyard. Shall we dig them out and boil them for dinner? I can make a dipping sauce for them.”
Fu Qiuning laughed: “What are you talking about? Hmm, it’s probably fine to eat wild vegetables with a dipping sauce but don’t you know there’s an even tastier way of eating them? Let’s harvest the vegetables together and turn them into dumplings.”
That’s right, though wild vegetables might be considered ‘free stuff’ that not even servants of a large house would eat, back in modern China, ‘Wild Vegetable Dumpling’ was the most expensive dumpling on the menu, you know? Even more expensive than most meat and shrimp stuffed dumplings.
Thus, after some general house cleaning, she, Yu Jie and Aunt Yu went to the back garden with their baskets. Feng’er and Jiao’er ran along with them curiously. However, Fu Qiuning refused to let them do any hard work and had Aunt Yu teach them about the different types of edible wild vegetables instead.
Laughter and joy filled the back garden. The soil had already been raked a few days ago in preparation for seed sowing. However, before they even did anything to the soil, tender plants had sprung up under the bright sunlight and in less than six days wild vegetables waved their tender green fronds at them.
Looking at this happy scene, Fu Qiuning could not help but burst into a song. The excerpt of <<The Fisherman’s Family Lives in the Middle of the Water>> from the <<Fairy Couple>>  resounded in the yard. At first, she sang a little cautiously. Soon, however, her natural performer self grew more and more excited as she sang and her voice projected across the whole yard, reaching Yu Jie and Aunt Yu who were digging for vegetables in a plot a little ways away.
Having thrown caution in the wind, believing that this courtyard was off the beaten track and there’s no need to be cautious, Fu Qiuning sang ever louder. Her stage training seeped into this world and lent power to the original body’s voice.
The song drifted with the wind beyond the walls of Night Breeze Pavilion. It just happened that a few people were out walking about in the garden.
Those people happened to be Jin Fengju and Jin Ming, followed by a few maids and servants.
[Gumihou: Ah, the scum male is here.]
Wild Vegetable Dumplings
Pill Bug TL Notes:
 元春省亲前后 context from another story, I didn’t read “Dream of the Red Chamber” so I’m not too sure how extravagant that garden was.
Gumihou: Should be pretty extravagant. Jia Yuanchun entered the palace as a lady-in-waiting and later married into the royal family as an Imperial Consort and the Jia Family historically served the Qing dynasty emperors. The family was in decline later but the garden should be quite extravagant in its original form. Jia Yuanchun is the elder sister of the ML in the story by a decade, so the time when she enters the palace should be at least a couple of decades before the decline. Also, the emperor favour this sister, which means the family’s fortune would have heightened the Jia family powers as well.
Excerpt of <<The Fisherman’s Family Lives in the Middle of the Water>>
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