Chapter 73: Shocking
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Pill Bug
Old Madam Jin sounded very regretful as she spoke… Jin Fengju’s heart shivered and he quickly schooled his face to reflect calmness. He said softly, “Yes, this grandson understands Grandmother’s teachings and would not allow such tragedy to happen.”
Let us return to Fu Qiuning’s side.
When they reached Night Breeze Pavilion, Fu Qiuning fully intended to properly educate Jin Changjiao. However, when she noticed the children nodding from sleepiness, she could not bear to scold them and ordered Aunt Yu to prepare them for bed. Thus, nothing was said the whole night.
The next day was the day after the Mid-Autumn Festival, therefore, the school gave the children a day off. Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao did not get up early that day. They slept in a little after the unusually late bedtime the night before. Eventually, they got up, groomed themselves and prepared to face the day.
That was when Fu Qiuning called the two children to her side. Aunt Yu and Yu Jie were also there, standing to the left and right of Fu Qiuning. Fu Qiuning stared straight at Jin Changjiao and said, “Jiao’er, do you know what you did wrong?”
Jin Changjiao thought she had escaped punishment. Unexpectedly, she still had to face some scolding. She could only lower her head and whisper, “This daughter knows. Last night, I should not have stuck my head out and made Mother suffer from my unintentional remark. I beg mother’s forgiveness.”
Fu Qiuning sighed, “Ever since you first heard me sing, I warned you to never let anyone know of this. You must wonder what is there to be afraid, or shameful of, for people to know of this pleasant thing. While it is true that I do not wish to stand out, there is another, far more serious reason. Now that both Changfeng and Changjiao have grown up, I shall reveal the true reason for my fear.”
She stood up and walked slowly to the window, as though sorting out her thoughts as she paced her steps. Finally, she said in a solemn voice, “Jiao’er must think that I am angry due to the insults from Jiang’shi. However, what are a few unpleasant words? In a noble household such as this, there are no shortages of sharp knives hidden in words. As the abandoned official wife aside, even Jiang’shi must have received many such cold remarks and hidden ridicule each day as the secondary wife. However, in the end, they are merely words and I would not lose flesh from it.”
Fu Qiuning whirled around and stared at the four people with burning eyes. She lowered her voice and said carefully, “However, think, the Huangmei and Yue opera sung by me, has any of you ever heard of it? Feng’er and Jiao’er are too young, but Yu Jie, Aunt Yu. You especially, Yu Jie. As someone who had travelled with the human traffickers and changed owners several times, you are the most well-travelled among us. I ask you this, have you ever heard any of my songs outside?”
Yu Jie thought for a moment, and murmured, “To be honest, I have gotten so used to Madam’s singing that it sounds natural to me. However, after thinking about it, the Yue Opera sounded most similar to the tunes hummed by Jiangnan boat girls, although more refined. As for the Huangmei, I have never heard it.”
Fu Qiuning nodded, “That is so. I happened to meet an eccentric old woman and secretly learned these songs from her. Even my own mother has no idea. Back then, I only thought her singing was very pleasant and she was more than happy to pass down her knowledge to me. I learned it, thinking that it was a fun pastime. It was only after I returned to the capital and mingled with others that I finally realised that not a single person could sing half a line of the Yue or Huangmei opera.
I have also secretly made inquiries with the opera singers for information, but not a single one of them knew about these songs. Instead, I was asked where I have learned it from. I could only make up a lie and gloss over the matter. Over the years, the more I thought of the matter, the more afraid I became. As you must know, those who are abnormal are considered demonic.
Though I have some talent, I could never have come up with original songs by myself, let alone full sets of operas. A single opera requires the cooperation of many people to create and the knowledge of singing techniques passed down from generation to generation. How could I have come up with any of them alone?
However, I do know them. Therefore, I must take pains to cover up these abnormalities and never allow a single clue to slip. Otherwise, in this noble house where the schemes of the people are as deep as the seas, and where I am already a thorn in the side of the Young Marquis’ wives and concubines, once my knowledge of opera singing is exposed…
Well, they might first praise me for my good singing. After that? They would ask, where have I learned it? How do you expect me to answer? Am I to find that old woman as my witness? She died the year I left the village and is nothing but a pile of bones now. However, aside from her, who else could vouch for me? How should I prove that I have learned this skill from others? What if someone intends to frame me? With such a life-threatening knowledge hanging over me, I ask you, how can I not be afraid?”
The more she spoke, the colder and more frightened Yu Jie, Aunt Yu and the twins became. Cold sweat wet their backs as they finally understood the gravity of the matter. In that era, they naturally understood accusations of demonic possessions and poisonous rumours could ruin a person. Who knew how many wives and concubines had been forced to their death over something as simple as unusual talents? No wonder the Madam was so frightened.
After all, the moment someone screams ‘demon’, could she still remain here? Want to gain a foothold? It would be good if she could preserve her life.
Fu Qiuning observe them as she privately breathed a sigh of relief. This was one of her biggest secrets. She finally explained it in a manner that would freak Yu Jie and the rest to never reveal the matter to outsiders. This way, so long as she continued to stay within Night Breeze Pavilion and sing now and then, it would all be fine.
She had finally gotten her breathing under control and was about to say something when she heard a light chuckle at the door. A too familiar voice called out, “Here I thought why you refuse to sing for us last night. To think that you’ve tied yourself up with complicated thoughts!”
To Fu Qiuning’s horror, Jin Fengju pushed open the door and stepped in.
Fright took the strength out of her body and she collapsed into the crouch with an audible sound. Her hands and feet were cold as she thought: No, no, no, it’s all over. To think that this terrible man had been eavesdropping at the door. How… how can it be? Has he heard everything? Wasn’t he supposed to meet the emperor for morning court? Why is he here? Why did the emperor let him out early?
All sorts of thoughts ran through her mind she shook, too frightened to even salute the man.
When Jin Fengju saw her white face, he grew anxious. He turned to look at the maids and children, all of whom also looked equally nervous. He hastily said, “Do not worry, only your father heard your mother’s explanation. There are no outsiders around. Aunt Yu, take the Young Master and Young Miss to the study first. I wish to speak with Qiuning for a moment.”
Yu Jie and Aunt Yu were at a loss what to do. They turned to Fu Qiuning, who was sprawled on the couch, as unmoving as a wooden doll. With no other choice, they could only salute the master and escorted the children to the study. All the while worrying for their mistress.
Here, Jin Fengju sat down beside Fu Qiuning. Seeing that she was still in a daze, he took her hands and said gently, “Why are you so frightened? Your hands are as cold as ice. Just what kind of performance is it that you are so sure would elicit such a response? Something that does not exist anywhere in the country? To the point that you will be demonised?”
Fu Qiuning was truly flustered and could not help herself. All of her operas came from her past life. It was her biggest secret and the thing that could expose her true origins. Now that it has been discovered by this shrewd and unfathomable man, how could she remain calm and rational?
However, when she heard this question, Fu Qiuning immediately realised that this was a great opportunity as well. She must seize this chance to present herself as a helpless innocent and convince Jin Fengju to believe her made-up story. So long as he believes it, even if she accidentally exposes herself in the future, she would still have this plausible denial.
Thus, with real fear underlining her lies, her eyes filled with real tears as she stared up at Jin Fengju, “Wh-when did Lord Husband come to the door? How much have you heard?”
Jin Fengju smiled and said, “When I arrived, I found your door closed and felt curious. I sent Jin Ming to wait in the courtyard. I happened to hear you say that words and insults are nothing as they won’t cause you to lose flesh. Everything aside, I must say that you are very broadminded. If my other wives and concubines have even half of your wisdom, I do not have to worry as much.”
Fu Qiuning looked as though she had not heard the rest of his words. She murmured, “If Lord Husband has eavesdropped since then, you must have heard the rest.” At this, more tears fell and she shook her head sadly. “Lord Husband, this humble woman has carried this burden in her heart for more than ten years. This humble woman grows more and more afraid every day. Perhaps this humble woman should have just stopped, but this humble woman was good at it.
This humble woman had thought to die with them within Night Breeze Pavilion. Aside from the people here, these operas should never have spread beyond these walls. When Jiao’er exposed me last night, this humble woman was so frightened that this humble woman hardly slept. All these years, this humble woman is thankful to Mother Ye for teaching me these skills, for they have sustained me in my lonely life. However, this humble woman also resented her.
This humble woman resents her for her lessons. Why did she teach this humble woman these suspicious things? Where did she learn them from? Why does none of these operas exist? However, she had long since returned to the yellow earth and the answers are all beyond my reach. She had placed this dangerous knowledge on this humble woman and this humble woman has suffered the burden of it ever since.”
Jin Fengju said wonderingly, “You say opera, so was the poem on the table one of them? Here I thought it was one page of good writing, but from what you say, it should be whole books of operas. This is indeed not something that could be accomplished alone. Well, it is pointless to talk about this. You should sing for me. I want to have a listen and see just what sort of one of a kind opera you have that makes you so frightened.”
Fu Qiuning took a deep breath. She knew that she could no longer hide this secret from Jin Fengju. Therefore, she wiped her eyes and took some time to gather herself, as though recovering from true fright. Finally, after a fortifying sip of tea, she sang a paragraph of a Yue Opera classic.
Sorrowful, I support the qin in my hand
My own life is mine to figure out
Before me, sat my beloved
Sadly, I have eyes but cannot see
[Gumihou: *slow claps* bravo. Stick to your guns. When you lie, stick to your lies and don’t ever reveal anything.]
 Some minor sentence adjustments for better flow. This includes deleting things like ‘when she saw’ that were totally unnecessary. Deleted a few ‘laughed’ too.
From a Yue Opera called <<The Desert Prince>>
If you love my translations, do consider dropping a comment at novelupdates!
Gumihou loves reading your comments, so gimme, gimme ~
( ´ ▽ ` )ﾉ