Chapter 21: Untitled
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
Jiang’shi’s son, Jin Zhenxuan, laughed, “Then you then go ahead and complain, ah. Let’s see whether I am afraid of you.”
Before he could finish speaking, Xu’shi’s daughter sneered, “You had best not go wild. I know that Madam favours you most. Therefore, if I were to complain, I would not go to Madam. I’d go right to Old Madam for judgement.”
Jin Xiuzhen huffed and said, “Then you go, ah. Look at yourself dressed in that Xi Xiang Luo outfit . Go tell Old Madam how we bullied you while wearing such good fabrics that even we of the main family don’t wear. Go ahead and complain, ah…”
Jin Fengju closed his eyes and sighed as a trace of coldness pricked his heart. Most days he was too busy with work with barely any time to educate the children, believing that it was enough for him to be a good gentleman role model and leave the education of his children to their smart and clever mothers. He had not expected the mothers of his children to only teach them how to compare and compete with each other. None of his children was stupid, but all their cleverness was bent in the wrong direction. They only knew how to fight each other to gain favour for their mothers.
At that thought, he coughed once, and called for the maid Cai Lian, “Call the young masters and young ladies over. I wish to test their knowledge.”
The quarrelling children blinked stupidly at each other when their father suddenly made this announcement. All of them cringed, but, not daring to refuse, they reluctantly came over one by one, cowering under their father’s gaze.
As for Jiang’shi, Xu’shi and the other women who had been fighting so spiritedly just now, they were equally apprehensive. For Jin Fengju to decide to test the children’s knowledge so unexpectedly, surely nothing good would come out of it?
The quarrelling three suddenly became allies as Huo’shi gave a little trill of laughter and said, “My lord, they’ve just been tested a few days ago, surely there’s no need to test them again?”
Jin Fengju glanced at her and said indifferently, “Tested a few days ago? Even before the test commenced, haven’t all of you already found excuses for them to escape the test?”
Seeing Jin Fengju’s unpleasant expression, nobody dared to persuade him anymore. Jiang Wanying opened her mouth a few times but was eventually cowed by Jin Fengju’s stiff expression. Finally, after some placating words, she also subsided anxiously to the side.
After questioning the two boys, Zhenyi and Zhenxuan, for a short while Jin Fengju no longer continued. Instead, he stood up and said coldly, “Last year when I tested you, you only knew this much. This year, nothing has changed. Even a tree would have grown a lot more in this half year’s time. Yet, you have not shown half the progress of a tree.”
After saying that, he looked at Jiang’shi, Xu’shi and the other women. He sounded uncharacteristically angry as he snapped, “Loving mothers ruin children. I know you all pitied them and I shall not reprimand you for that. However, pity is not the same as spoiling. Just look at these children, each one of them dressed in silk, gauze and satin, all fed on mountain treasures and fresh seafood and yet none of them possess even half a point of learning.
Isn’t this the result of you spoiling them every day? I went to great lengths to hire famous teachers for them, yet they are not as promising as the two children taught by Fu’shi from Night Breeze Pavilion. Tell me, isn’t this all your fault?”
Jiang Wanying was stunned. In all these years, because Jin Fengju had never brought that Fu woman or those children up, she had long lost her wariness against them, focusing instead on fighting these wretched concubines and their children. To think that her husband would actually bring up that woman and those children… for a moment, a sour sensation burst out of her body, exploding to the sky as she jerked her chin to the side, sneering, “I see, here I was wondering why on earth you’re in such a temper today. To think it’s because you’ve visited that able and virtuous woman from that upstanding and righteous Night Breeze Pavilion. But of course, how could we dare to compare ourselves to her?
After having stewed in that place for six years, it’s about time they make a move, and what explosive move it is. As expected, the calmest water hides the most treacherous beasts. You say we do not teach our children well? I’m afraid we have no choice but to admit it. If only my lord husband, their father would also bear half the responsibility on his noble self. I am incompetent, but even so, I know the Three Character Classic which listed the faults of a father who raises children but never teaches.”
“You…” Jin Fengju was someone who did not speak much. However, when he did, his speeches were heavier than a thousand pounds. In a battle of words, how could he win against these wives and concubines who sharpened their tongues daily on each other? Irritation filled his heart and he thought: Sure enough, Zhenyi is right, this cousin of his had gone overboard. He stared at this domineering woman with her pursed lips and arrogant jut of her chin. He heard the sneer in her voice again and wondered where the water-like meekness of this morning had gone? Right now she was no different from those unreasonable, sticky shrews his colleagues often complained about.
At this, his anger meter shot even higher and he coldly said, “Very well, as you claim that I do not teach my children well, I shall give them a good lesson today. All of you, kneel outside now, you shall have no dinner tonight. Beginning tomorrow, each and every one of you must memorize 20 pages of large letters and one page of small letters. You must also thoroughly study one page of the Analects of Confucius and memorize at least 10 paragraphs. If you cannot at least explain three out of these 10 paragraphs you can forget about your meals and starve to death.”
“My lord, you… this is harming the children’s lives, ah. Those paragraphs, even we mothers do not understand it, how could the children be clever enough to explain it?
“My lord… if you want them to kneel, we shall go and kneel together right away. After all, when our child suffers, a mother’s heart cannot be at peace. We would rather suffer together…”
“It was just a few words said in anger. How could you be so angry? If you have the guts, why not just beat us to death with sticks and bring that shu-born main wife, that pawn from those wretched people’s plans along with those two filthy worms born of that base washerwoman into the family…”
The entire room erupted into a series of howls and shrieks, led by Jiang’shi and the concubines, all of them kneeling, crying and wailing at Jin Fengju who was starting to get a headache from the commotion. He was never one to like noisy situations, preferring to remain aloof, keeping his feelings of happiness and anger under wraps.
However, this time, he was just too angry. What’s more, these people were the closest to him in blood and not strangers he could just dismiss and never see again. Finally, unable to stand it anymore, he roared, “Enough! Since you are all so heartbroken about my interference I shall not care for you anymore! You may do as you please!”
After throwing those final words down, he flicked his sleeves, composed his expression, and strode out of the room full of women and children who were shocked into silence. They stared at each other, unsure what they had done or what to do next.
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“Master, calm your anger, madam and the concubines are merely a little too concerned for the young masters and young misses,” Jin Ming trotted along the angry Jin Fengju to the garden, doing his best to soothe him. “They did it out of love, moreover, how old are the young masters and young misses now? They are at the age where they love to play and find sages’ books boring. It’s inevitable that they would not like studying. When they are a little older, I’m sure they will study better once their temperament settles.”
“Humph, as the saying goes, ‘A Man’s Character is Revealed at Three’ but none of those children are three-years-olds anymore. From the way their mothers raise them, they will all grow into useless fops. When I was their age, the books I’ve memorised were no less than what Changfeng had read. Mother disciplined me well and brought me up to be an outstanding scholar. I have no idea why she is so lax with her grandsons. Does she not care about the future of the Jinxiang Marquisate anymore? If I had to rely on that herd of fops, what do you think would happen to the prosperity of this marquisate?”
Jin Fengju was really badly angered. Jin Ming was his confidant of many years with a discreet mouth and quick hands and feet. He had entrusted many confidential matters to this manservant and rarely did the man let him down. Therefore, Jin Fengju felt free to let out all the worries in his chest. However, instead of making him feel better, the more he spoke, the more irritated he became.
Finally, he sighed and said, “Enough about that, three feet of ice did not pile up in a single winter’s day . Let me think about the matter a bit more, I cannot allow the women to keep indulging them this way.”
“Yes, Master is the most brilliant. How many large and small assignments have been solved by Master? The young masters, young mistresses and the madams are still of one mind as you. It’s not like this is a matter where you are enemies where one side cannot live while the other is alive, right? How can the matter not be solved?” Jin Ming could only smile and speak many such placating words to his master
Even he knew that family matters were not as simple as they looked. Otherwise, the saying ‘Even Upright Judges Find it Difficult to Judge Family Matters’ would not exist.
[Gumihou: Tsk, tsk, cold, Jin Fengju. However, I like this part of the ML since it made sense for a man who sees education as a vital thing for his children to favour the woman who educates his children properly. After all, when it comes to mating, even animals have certain traits they look for. Jin Fengju would almost definitely favour a mate who would educate his children well]
Pill Bug TL Notes:
 茜香罗 A reference from <<Dream of the Red Chamber>>, a red napkin made from the fictional XiXiang country.
 Three feet of ice did not pile up in a single day – this situation did not appear suddenly, and it had grown over time.
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