Chapter 41: Preparation
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Pill Bug
No matter how annoyed she was, they still had to brave this coming Dragon Boat Festival. Moreover, neither Jin Changfeng nor Jin Changjiao knew the helplessness and anxiety in Fu Qiuning’s heart. Thus, the very next day, the little household cheered up as they soaked glutinous rice, prepared various fillings and began to wrap the dumplings amidst the cheers and clamour of the twins.
Seeing no evidence of worry on Fu Qiuning’s face, Aunt Yu dared to cautiously ask, “Madam, for this Dragon Boat Festival, as it is our first meeting with the Old Madam… we ought to prepare some gifts. What does Madam have in mind?”
She barely finished speaking when Yu Jie nudged her. The younger maid’s eyes flashed in warning, telling her not to cause trouble for their Madam. She sighed, thinking: The Dragon Boat Festival is only three days away, ah. If not for the burning between my eyebrows, would I risk annoying Madam?
Fu Qiuning sneered, “What can we bring? Even if I were to dig up the money from the bottom of my box, do you think we could get anything worth giving the Old Madam? The one thing she does not lack in life is wealth. Since I’ve been asked to go, I can only bring some courtesy gifts. The best thing we can bring over is a gift of Rice Dumplings with various fillings just to show our filial piety.”
At this, Yu Jie’s eyes brightened and she nodded, “That’s right. Before meeting Madam, this maid only knew about Rice Dumplings stuffed with jujube or meat fillings. This maid never heard about dumplings stuffed with egg yolk, bean paste, jujube paste  and other such things. I don’t believe that anyone in the marquisate had ever tasted such novel Rice Dumplings. It’s a wonderful idea to bring dumplings.”
Aunt Yu also nodded in agreement, her lips curling into a smile as she said, “When I saw how angry Madam was yesterday, I was afraid Madam would declare yourself ill on the day of the banquet, offending both the Young Marquis and the Old Madam. Hearing that Madam already has ideas on what gifts to bring puts this maid’s mind at ease. Madam is certainly more broadminded than this maid. If this task had fallen onto this maid, this maid would have most likely worried herself to death.”
Fu Qiuning sighed, then sneered, “I just don’t wish to fight, so what? When it is impossible to avoid a fight, it’s best to go for a head-on confrontation. If those wives and concubines are sensible, we shall live like Well Water and River Water, never crossing each other’s paths. If they dare to develop any unscrupulous thoughts against me, they had better not blame me for retaliating. Within an aristocratic family like this, there’s no such thing as taking a step back and attempting in a broadminded discussion. If I take one step back, others will rush ten steps forward.
As the official wife who had been neglected and abandoned, what kind of face do I need to maintain? As for those fancy noblewomen, anyone who is not afraid to make a fuss and dirty their faces in a struggle, all are welcome to come at me.”
As she spoke, she tossed one of the freshly wrapped Rice Dumplings into the pot of water. Clearly, she expected no peace on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival banquet.
Yu Jie and Aunt Yu fell silent. A long while later, Yu Jie cheered up and smiled, “Until the day comes, who knows what will happen? No need to think too much, Madam. Let us quickly wrap up all these Rice Dumplings and steam them this afternoon. Oh, but the Rice Dumplings for Old Madam should be made fresh, what does Madam think?”
Fu Qiuning nodded, “As you say, let’s do that.”
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By the time they were done steaming the dumplings and boiling the chicken, duck and goose eggs, it was late afternoon.
Thanks to Fu Qiuning’s strict discipline, no matter how much Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao drooled over the dumplings and boiled eggs, they dared not sneak one for themselves. It wasn’t until evening had fallen that Yu Jie and Aunt Yu moved a table outside and the family ate happily together.
“Slow down, don’t choke yourself. Feng’er, take a smaller bite, don’t overstuff yourself just because you like it,” as Fu Qiuning ate, she kept an eye on the children. Seeing the glutinous rice grains sticking all over their cheeks, she could not help feeling amused yet a little cross. Above all, a sense of contentment bloomed from the bottom of her heart.
Aunt Yu smiled and said, “Madam, surely there’s no need to be so strict with them? We are usually so frugal with our food and can only take a second helping during festival days. Do let the children enjoy themselves.”
So saying, she peeled another Rice Dumpling for Jin Changfeng.
Fu Qiuning said, “Very well, let them have half a dumpling each. Once that’s gone, no more. Overeating is not a small problem. Remember what happened last year? Was I the only one frightened? Who was it that cried until they could barely keep their face clear of tears?”
Aunt Yu and Yu Jie laughed, however, when they thought back to how Jin Changjiao had given herself terrible indigestion after eating too much, they quickly coaxed the children out to play after eating that last Rice Dumpling.
Here, Yu Jie whispered to Aunt Yu, “No matter how clever the Young Master is, he still lacks common sense. If he had stayed back for dinner, he could have tasted Madam’s craftsmanship. To think he actually decided not to stay.”
Aunt Yu gave her a look, then glanced over at the kang where Fu Qiuning was still eating and shook her head slightly. She thought: Just where did you get your daring from? Don’t you know just how annoyed the Madam is by the Young Marquis? Still dare to say what a pity that he missed out on our mistress’ dumplings? You should be grateful for the opportunity to eat dumplings made by our mistress instead.
After dinner, Fu Qiuning opened the cabinet and rummaged through the children’s clothing. From the back, she took out two sets of satin summer outfits  and said, “I believe these were made close to the end of last summer and the children only wore them once. From what I can see, the colour is almost new. I think it is fine to just wear these to the banquet.”
Aunt Yu and Yu Jie laughed and said, “Yes, that was a particularly good set. It also matches the dragon and phoenix pendants that Young Master gifted the children.” Thus, the question of what to wear was solved.
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The children had no idea they would be attending a family banquet with their mother until one day before the event. When they heard the news, they were ecstatic. However, Fu Qiuning said sternly, “At the banquet, you must never leave my side, don’t quarrel with other people, don’t cause trouble, greet the Old Madam according to the rules. Be respectful, but not meek. It’s time for the two of you to learn how to strike a balance between respectful and reserved. Remember that you are your father’s eldest son and daughter. Though your names have not yet entered the family registry, everyone knows you are the Young Marquis’ children. Therefore, any unruly actions will dishonour your father’s face, understand?”
The two children chimed their agreement.  A trace of worry appeared on their faces at the number of rules that Fu Qiuning had suddenly listed. Aunt Yu quickly said, “Madam, surely there’s no need to be so harsh? Both children have always been sensible, so what could happen? Rather than keep frightening them, why not Madam come and take a look at the gift box I just made. See if there’s anything you wish to change?”
After Fu Qiuning was led away, the brother and sister were left to their own devices. They sat together at the steps, a little disillusioned. “Before coming to mother’s place, even the servants’ children dared to bully us. Now that we have to go to a family banquet and with Father having never officially recognised us, will those young masters and young misses treat us like brother and sister? If they bully us too much, what should we do? Mother said to ‘Bear it until it’s no longer bearable’ but with so many people there, if we caused a big stir, wouldn’t we implicate mother too?”
The two children wrinkled their noses in thought.
Suddenly, Jin Changjiao’s eyes lit up and she grabbed her brother’s arm. “Brother, didn’t Aunt Yu ask mother to inspect the gift box she had just made? Our family is poor and we can’t give precious things like those fancy people. Mother’s dumplings might be good, but it’s only a small novelty. Also, since it’s our first meeting with Great-Grandmother, what if we make some small gifts for her too? First, we could add to Mother’s gifts, and second, if we could please Great-Grandmother, those young masters and young misses would not dare to bully us. What do you think?”
[Gumihou: Ooh? Scheming? Lol]
 Some minor adjustments for clarity
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