Chapter 72: To lament
Author: White Pear Flower
Translated by Pill Bug
Edited by Gumihou
“She is a mere shu-born daughter, so why shouldn’t she learn the performing arts?” Xu’shi snorted coldly.
Jin Fengju turned a wintry gaze on her and spoke in a cool voice, “Is that so? Has your third younger sister studied opera in the marquisate? Shall we invite her to sing for us? Or, could it be that she is only allowed to sing for her in-laws? If that’s the case, the next time I visit Lord Jia’s residence, I should have a good listen.”
Concubine Xu’s face turned red, she mumbled, “Naturally, my sister cannot sing. I thought… thought that Madam had lived in the village before and might have learned some performing arts there. If Lord Husband does not wish to listen, then we should leave it be.” She put on a pathetic face as she carefully studied Jin Fengju’s expression.
Jin Fengju snorted, but did not make things too difficult for her. The Old Madam glanced at her grandson’s face as more and more plans brewed in her heart. She privately laughed: Fengju, ah, Fenju. Looks like Fu’shi has a much higher position on your heart than what your old grandma had expected. I just wanted to see when you would open your mouth to defend her, but I never expect it to happen so soon.
This is very good, although a good show had been delayed. From the way Jiao girl spoke up, I expect that this Fu’shi really does have some excellent singing skills, ah. What a pity, what a pity… No, I must have her sing for me. Naturally, it would not be a public venue like this, otherwise, it would really make her lose her status.
“It’s all the same few operas over and over again, I do believe our ears will have rotted off with boredom. Let’s have some singing and dancing now.” Since her son had already stood up for Fu Qiuning, Madam Jiang thought that it would not be good for her to say anything against it. Therefore, she lightly said something to change the subject. Let us close this episode of the drama for now.
The tables and chairs on the stage were removed. Not long after that, the sound of strings and flutes arose. From both sides of the stage, two teams of dancers ran onto the stage. Their clothes fluttered gorgeously as they danced to the lively music. When the dancing reached its peak, the music suddenly stopped and a voice was heard rising slowly in the background, as though crossing over from the waters of Penglai Island into the mortal realm.
“Mother, that is Er Gouzi’s  mother.” Knowing that his mother was very angry, Jin Changfeng attempted to distract his mother and ease her anger. Otherwise, his sister’s bottom would definitely suffer once they returned. He had not expected to recognise the songstress on the stage and his eyes lit up at the unexpectedly great topic.
“Er Gouzi’s mother? Who is Er Gouzi??” Fu Qiuning asked with some confusion while looking at the songstress on the stage.
“It’s natural that Mother would not remember. However, we remember it very clearly. Back when we were still living in the laundry area, Er Gouzi often come and bully us. He would proudly use his mother’s songstress status and his bigger size to make fun of us and beat us…”
Jin Changfeng had purposefully mentioned the abuses from their younger days, and sure enough, Fu Qiuning’s heart immediately softened.
She couldn’t help but recall the day when the twins first arrived, half-starved, bruises all over their bodies and their fearful eyes. With a quiet sigh, she said, “The past is the past. Do not think of it anymore. People should be broadminded. No matter what he was like, Er Gouzi’s future is limited as the son of a songstress. As for the two of you, the Young Master and Young Miss of a noble house with your father’s favour on you, there is no need to bother with him, is there?”
Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao nodded. Seeing that her mother did not seem to be angry, Jin Changjiao, anxious to please her, hastily smiled and said, “I understand. Mother often says: A person bitten by a dog should not turn around to bite the dog, right?”
Jin Fengju had been listening intently as the mother and children talking. He had been elegantly sipping a glass of apricot flower wine when Jin Changjiao dropped this nugget of wisdom. He nearly spat out the wine in his mouth but managed to hold back, but ended up choking.
Madam Jiang glared at Fu Qiuning. Fu Qiuning, feeling a little embarrassed, thought: Really now, I cannot share my thoughts with these children. What troublemakers, ah! Wonderful, I have said so many things to you but you insisted on remembering this now.
As her thoughts kept rolling, she heard Jiang Wanying laugh, “What happened, Lord Husband? No jokes are being told on stage now, why have you choked on your wine?”
Jin Fengju wiped his mouth with a handkerchief, recovered his usual calm behaviour and leisurely said, “Nothing, I just remembered something funny and accidentally choked on my wine. Alright, enough talking. Pay attention to the stage. Back then, for the sake of inviting Missus Zhu into the marquisate, who knows how much effort was spent? In a year, she only sang a few times for us.”
Madam Jiang laughed, “That is natural, rumour has it that this Missus Zhu was very famous in Jiangnan back then. Even the local government banquets attended by capital officials and imperial envoys would invite her to sing. It was not easy to invite her to our marquisate. Just listen, can you imagine an even better singer?”
Jin Changjiao was not at all convinced. Privately, she thought: This lady sings well, but Mother’s singing is a thousand times better!
However, after what happened earlier, she dare not voice out the words.
As the moon slowly emerged from behind the mountains, Old Madam Jin personally went to the moon offering altar and put in an incense stick, knelt and prayed silently. She was followed by Madam Jiang, Jin Fengju, Fu Qiuning, Jiang Wanying and so on, who also went up to worship the moon. The crowd watched the singing and dancing for a while longer. As the moon slowly rose to the sky and spread its cold light all over the people, Old Madam Jin ordered the servants to extinguish half the lanterns. It was getting colder too, so she ordered everyone to enter the walled pavilion.
As the people were moving towards the walled area, Fu Qiuning took the opportunity to respectfully bow and say, “Old Ancestor, it is getting late. This humble woman always goes to bed early and wakes up early. The children too have never stayed up until this time and are very sleepy, moreover, the path to Night Breeze Pavilion is long. This humble woman believes that it is better to bid Old Ancestor goodbye and to pay respects another day…”
Old Madam Jin laughed: “What’s the hurry? If Feng’er and Jiao’er are sleepy, they can fall asleep in my arms. Night Breeze Pavilion is so far away. There’s no need to return tonight. Rest at my place for the night.”
Fu Qiuning hastily replied, “Old Ancestor’s kindness is abundant and should not be declined, but Feng’er and Jiao’er are used to sleeping in their kang beds since they were small, so if they suddenly go to Old Ancestor’s house now, they may not be able to sleep and would cry or toss and turn, depriving the Old Ancestor of peace. This humble woman thinks that it would be best for them to return with me to Night Breeze Pavilion.”
When she said this, Old Madam Jin also realised that she could not force them to stay and could only agree.
Just then, Jin Fengju came forward and said, “Old Ancestor, Night Breeze Pavilion is very remote, and they have to pass through Yong Cui Garden to get there. Why doesn’t this grandson escort them back with a few people? After all, they were only women and children, how can they not be afraid?”
As the words left his lips, Madam Jiang said, “A good point, however, it’s fine to have Jin Ming escort them along with a few servant boys. It is Mid-Autumn Festival and the Old Madam has not had enough fun yet, but you already wish to leave? If you return, that’s fine, but what if you don’t return?”
Seeing how his mother had rejected his suggestion, Jin Fengju turned to the Old Madam for help. Old Madam Jin’s voice was affectionate as she said, “Your mother is right, send Jin Ming with a few people to escort them to Night Breeze Pavilion.”
And so, the matter was settled. Jin Fengju watched as Jin Ming, along with several other servants, escorted Fu Qiuning away. He knew that there was no way he could get away from the crowd today and hear this woman personally sing for him.
“Come sit and talk with me. If you want to see your wife, surely you can do so anytime?” When Old Madam summoned him, Jin Fengju had no choice but to sit by her, along with the other ladies of the family. Soon, everyone settled down to listen to stories.
Seeing that no one was paying attention to them, Jin Fengju scooted over to Old Madam Jin’s side and in a half-complaining voice, said, “It is one thing for others to not understand the grandsons’ mind, but how could Grandmother not understand? Why didn’t you let me go with them? I can investigate on Grandmother’s behalf and find out just what kind of opera Qiuning can sing. Next time, I can even have her sing just for you. Now that you’ve made me stay here, I cannot strike while the iron is hot. Who knows how many ways she would deny this later.”
Old Madam Jin grunted and said, “Enough nonsense from you. She could deny others, but can she deny you? No matter what, you are her husband. Moreover, I did this for her own good. While I generally understand your feelings, this has gone beyond my expectations. Grandson, ah. As the saying goes, ‘Govern the State with an Orderly Family’, only then would the world be peaceful. You have done well keeping your family well controlled while you serve the country.
Now that you have praised and promoted that Fu’shi so extensively, just look at your concubines. It is as though they cannot wait to eat her alive. If you had personally escorted her back tonight, ignoring even the Mid-Autumn Festival, tell me, would you not draw more fire towards her?”
Jin Fengju laughed and said, “Old Ancestor is right. However, if Old Ancestor saw all this with your foresight, why did you personally visit Night Breeze Pavilion? If you really wished for the sweet potatoes, would it not be better for her to quietly send some to you? Wouldn’t going there with such fanfare draw fire to her too?”
Old Madam Jin poked Jin Fengju’s forehead with a finger and spat, “You little white-eyed wolf, isn’t it all for your sake? Grandma knew that you must have had feelings for her and intended to move her to your inner court sooner or later. It’s best to familiarise her with the power plays of the inner court in moderation first. While I’m still alive, I can still protect her. Otherwise, if you suddenly throw her into that tiger-wolf den, wouldn’t she be too bewildered to protect herself? Once she’s harmed by the ones in your inner court, won’t you be the one who is distressed?”
Jin Fengju was surprised, he did not even realise his love for Fu Qiuning himself. Although he had long decided to move Fu Qiuning into the inner court sooner or later, he had only taken note of her stability and calmness. He was sure that her stable temper would help him straighten out the unhealthy trends of glory-seeking, jealousy and intrigue that generally brewed within the inner court. He had never thought of fulfilling the vows between husband and wife.
While he had experienced the occasional quickening of pulse around her now and then, he thought it was the normal reaction of a man to a woman and did not take it to heart. After all, he was a married man with many wives and concubines. In fact, Fu Qiuning was comparatively ordinary-looking among all the women in his harem.
As for tonight’s impulse, he had only meant to ask after the opera thing. Therefore, when Old Madam mentioned his ‘feelings for her’ he could not help but freeze in place for a moment. Finally, he merely smiled and did not argue with the Old Madam on the matter. He merely said, “A tiger-wolf den? Old Ancestor, you really know how to phrase things. How did my inner court become a tiger-wolf den? It’s just a few wives and concubines poking at each other over some imagined slights and bitter jealousies. This is perfectly normal. Why on earth would you use the term ‘Tiger-wolf den’?”
Old Madam Jin flashed a glance at Jin Fengju’s concubines and smiled enigmatically, “Grandson, ah. You are a clever person. There are some things that should be clear without Grandma having to explain. You are sharp and wield your authority well, which is why they dare not allow themselves to have too many thoughts.
However, as their children grow older, their thoughts will grow as well. You should take care, ah. Back then, while your grandfather was still around, I stood beside him and kept watch as best I could. Even so, a few lives were lost. There are many nasty, dirty things hidden within large noble families. I only hope that you spare some effort, watch your people close and not let them commit evil again.”
[Gumihou: I guess someone has to die or be badly injured before he’s willing to believe that the inner court is actually worse than a tiger-wolf den]
Pill Bug TL Notes:
 Remember this guy? “Er Gouzi” = ”Second Dog Son”. He was mentioned back in chapter 11.
Gumihou: Yup. He certainly has a unique name.
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