Chapter 28: Hidden Battle
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
When the thought occurred to them, their faces immediately paled. Jiang Wanying also felt very annoyed with herself. She hated the she from yesterday who had pushed and nagged Jin Fengju until he stormed away from her. How could she have forgotten what kind of nature this cousin of hers has?
He was the type who appeared soft on the outside but hid a spine of steel. When she thought of this, she became even more remorseful and she suddenly remembered her mother’s advice from back then. She sighed and thought: Have I been overly spoilt by my cousin all these years? But… while it’s true that he was very considerate towards me, why have I never truly felt spoiled by him?
While she was busy ruminating over this, the increasingly irritating whispered discussion of those lowly concubines annoyed her even more. She sneered, “What are you all talking about over here? What happened to all the energy you used to quarrel with me? If you have the ability, just go straight to Night Breeze Pavilion and beat that Fu woman to death with a stick. However, don’t lump me with the likes of you.”
When Xu’shi, Huo’shi and others heard this, their faces blushed red with shame as they glared at her. These two were nothing like the honest and quiet Cui’shi or Lesser Concubine Yue Lan. They were the least willing to admit defeat or lower their heads. When confronted like this, Huo’shi immediately sneered back and said, “Looks like we are the ignorant ones. To think I never knew that Madam is so wise and virtuous. Even so, it suddenly occurs to me that a certain Fu’shi seems to be the Lord Husband’s official wife. Madam, aren’t you only a secondary wife? From the looks of it, it’s clear that the lord shows great regard for the official Madam. It is only right that Madam leads us to welcome the official Madam into the courtyard.”
When she was done, Xu’shi also leapt in to sneer and added, “Sister is right. Fu’shi has been inside Night Breeze Pavilion for five years without making waves, enduring loneliness until Lord Husband finally remembered her. Even so, the lord never criticised or took any action against her. Clearly, this could only mean that he has high regard for her virtue. I fear if she’s made to head this family, us sister’s life might actually improve…”
“What was that? Have I been making life difficult for you? If so, then you should go before the  Lord and Elder Madam and expose my sins. I shall gladly accept my faults if I’m in the wrong. However, if I’m not at fault, the ones making trouble should be thoroughly questioned instead,” Jiang Wanying said grimly.
These two concubines depended on their maternal family’s influence to fight for power and sought to challenge her authority at every turn. If not for her own maternal family’s principle of restraining one’s edge, would these two daughters of mere officials dare to annoy a woman of her status? The lofty and highborn granddaughter of a duke?
“How would we dare? Who in this marquisate doesn’t know how Lord Husband and Elder Madam favour you most?” Xu’shi sneered back.
The one who answered this time was Jian Wanying’s personal maid Qiu Xia, who also sneered, “Since Concubine Xu knows this, it would do you good to be more courteous to our Madam in the future. Such a domineering attitude should only be shown once you’ve found yourself a good backer in this marquisate.”
Xu’shi was so angry that her face turned purple. She pointed at Qiu Xia and said hatefully, “What was that, you cheap slut? Pei, why don’t you take a good look at yourself instead? To dare speak to me like this, hah. Go and take a look in the mirror and see if you possess the kind of face to speak to me thus.”
She had barely finished speaking when Jiang Wanying suddenly laughed and coldly said, “Are you saying Qiu Xia has no right to speak to you? Just what are you? When I first married in, I had two personal maids, Qiu Xia and Qiu Shuang. After Qiu Shuang gave birth to the Lord’s child, she was given Concubine status. Since her status is equal to yours, why can’t she speak to you on equal footing?”
This Qiu Shuang, also known as the quiet and honest Concubine Cui, used to be Jiang Wanying’s dowry maid who was given to Jin Fengju as a lesser concubine immediately after Jiang Wanying’s marriage.
Later, after giving birth, though the child was only a daughter, Jin Fengju had raised her status to a regular concubine position due to her honest and diligent attitude.
“Hmph, younger sister Cui is just lucky. Sadly, Qiu Xia lacks just that crucial bit of authority. She has to at least give birth to Lord Husband’s child before she has the right to speak to me as an equal.” With a final sniff, she flounced to the side and sat down.
Just then, Lesser Concubine Yue Lan stammered, “Madam, sisters, let’s not quarrel anymore. I-isn’t it better to use the time to think about what we should do next?”
However, she was immediately reprimanded by all the women.
“Nonsense! This is a given!”
“Fool, do we need you to say this?!” 
Yue Lan was so frightened that she dared not speak up again. Privately, she thought: The enemy is in sight but you’re still squabbling in the nest. Lord Husband already said all those things about your inferior children yet you still don’t have a sense of crisis. Just what is going on in your heads?
While she busily sneered at them in her heart, Jiang Wanying’s annoyed voice decried, “Enough, enough, the lot of you get out. Your noise is giving me a headache. As for that Fu woman, I shall look into it a few days later. It’s almost time for the Dragon Boat Festival, so I don’t have the free time to waste on that matter. You all go back now.”
When Xu’shi and Huo’shi heard her mention the Dragon Boat Festival, jealousy and hatred brewed in their bellies once more. However, there was nothing they could do about it. In all these years, although Jin Fengju occasionally bestowed them with gifts and their monthly allowances were nothing short of generous, they were not allowed to touch money or properties belonging to the marquisate. Fortunately, their dowry included some businesses from their maternal family. Otherwise, it would be difficult to say what their life would be like without these precious sources of income.
This was also why the powerless and penniless Cui’shi and Yue Lan could not go against Jian Wanying. Their livelihood depended on her whims and while she disdained their honest and cowardly nature, she did not neglect their monthly allowances if only to earn the title ‘virtuous’ from Jin Fengju.
After Xu’shi and other wretched mermaids left , Qiu Xia poured a cup of tea for Jiang Wanying. When she saw her mistress knead her forehead, she immediately took over and gently massaged Jiang Wanying’s temples. When Jiang Wanying finally relaxed, she said in a low voice, “Madam, do you truly wish to go see that Fu woman? Perhaps the master is just entertaining a little novelty and went over to have a look. If we fuss rashly, wouldn’t we be accused of making a mountain out of a molehill? How about waiting and watching to see what the master plans to do?”
Jiang Wanying closed her eyes and leaned back on the pillow, plainly saying, “If we wait for Lord Husband to act first, I’m afraid things might be too late. I must personally investigate that Fu woman for my own peace of mind. Nevertheless, this matter is not urgent. Let’s go and take a look tomorrow or the day after. If we are too anxious, it would appear as though we are facing some powerful enemy. Humph, she’s just an abandoned woman after all. There’s no need for me to waste my energies over her.”
“Yes, Madam is wise. No matter what, this plan appears to be the most thorough. This maid has been by Madam’s side for 10 years now and still suffers from narrow vision. This maid is too stupid and is truly ashamed for not being a better assistance for Madam. Qiu Xia continued to slap the horse’s rump , causing Jiang Wanying to smile with her clever flattery.
Having cheered up, Jiang Wanying was ready to be generous. “Still dare call yourself stupid? Look at you, your skill with flattery has only increased. Humph, do you think I’d tolerate your little tricks if you haven’t been faithful to me all these years? Enough with that, make sure to massage my head well. Those shameless nasty vixens just had to come and display their vulgar attitudes at my place. One day, I will let them witness my true strength.”
Qiu Xia merely smiled. She knew that her mistress was just venting out her frustration. After all, as Jin Fengju’s cousin, she had a better understanding of his nature than anyone else. Although the master looked like he did not care about the happenings within the inner court, he was too smart. Over the years, Madam’s position might look impressive on the surface and earned a reputation of being virtuous, but she paid a serious price for it. No one knew just how much mock and ridicule she had to face from increasingly aggressive concubines.
However, they have battled secretly for years and thus far, the Madam had prevailed. At the very least, not a single one of those vixens were able to wrench the right to govern the household finances from her. This was already something quite difficult to achieve.
[Gumihou: No wonder their children are trash]
Pill Bug TL Notes:
 爷 Lord husband is 爷, grandfather is also 爷, this makes it hard to tell at first sight! Chinese, ah, Chinese, you have so many different words for different relatives, why suddenly use the same word here…
Gumihou: Have to use context. Since they are speaking to each other, and the only man who has their life and death in his hands should be JFJ, therefore lord or lord master or lord husbands is all correct. Jin Ming also called him 爷, so lord or master is correct under these circumstances.
 人鱼 …Mermaid? Am I missing some Chinese mythology context, like mermaids being spiteful or something?
Gumihou: China’s later references to renyu or lingyu are all bewitching females. In the earlier references, they were mostly hideous fish people with extra legs, so…
 Should I use the closer term “kiss ass” instead?
Gumihou: Kiss ass sounds so American, let’s just smack the horse’s rump.
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