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Higher Level Wife – 187 – Needle in the Cotton

Chapter 187: Needle in the Cotton [1]

Author: White Pear Flower


Translated by Pill Bug

Edited by Gumihou


Old Madam Jin said, “Go if you must, I shall settle the score with you later.”

Jin Fengju paused in the middle of leaving when Old Madam Jin said this and he turned around to say in a surprised tone, “This is an injustice, ah. I have not offended Old Ancestor these past few days, and I have even been filial all the time. Why do you say that you want to settle the score with me?”

Old Madam Jin laughed heartily and said, “Since you know that your wife could sing opera, why did you never let me know? Clearly, you only care about your own enjoyment. Isn’t this a terrible act of unfiliality? You still have the cheek to say that you’re filial? Pei!”

Jin Fengju tittered happily, saying, “It is Qiuning who refuses to stick her head out. It is not my fault, ah, Old Ancestor. If you wish to blame anyone, you must go and look for her. I shall leave for the study first.” With that, he slipped away as though his feet had been greased with oil.

Old Madam Jin and the others laughed. Just then, Jiang Wanying’s voice drawled, “Elder Sister truly deserves the title of ‘talented woman’, to actually pioneer a new path in the world of opera. From Lord Husband’s description, even the Empress Dowager and Emperor have nothing but praise for you. Sadly, we, your nearest and dearest, have yet to hear a single line from your lips. Even so, we will not hold it against Elder Sister for favouring one and neglecting another, nor will we settle any scores. So long as you sing this opera for us, we shall forgive you. How about it?”

Fu Qiuning [a1] blinked her tired gaze at this woman and said, “What does sister mean by favouring one and neglecting the other? Is… my dear little sister comparing yourself to… certain venerable persons…?” [a2]

It took a moment for Fu Qiuning’s words to click. When it did, [a3] Jiang Wanying’s face turned red and white alternately, unable to say another word.

That’s right, how could regular people, even those from the nobility, compare themselves with the core imperial family? Even Madam Jiang was stunned speechless. Although she was displeased to see this woman enter the palace, she was also secretly awestruck. After all, it was the imperial palace, ah!

Concubine Huo laughed into the awkward silence. She gleefully said, “Madam is absolutely right. How could we dare to elevate ourselves above the Empress Dowager and the Emperor? It is just too sad that we won’t have the fortune to fully appreciate this new opera. Sigh, even my heart is itching with curiosity now. What kind of opera could have touched the hearts of the Empress Dowager and the Emperor so? I count myself as someone who has watched operas since young and felt that many plays have been repeated to the point of tedium. Sadly, we must content ourselves with these boring plays.”

It was clearly bait for Fu Qiuning to say something, if that meaningful gaze was anything to go by. Therefore, Fu Qiuning obligingly said, “Lord Husband has already volunteered my services to create the full opera. In time, you may enjoy this new opera as well.”

Old Madam Jin quickly picked up the cue to say, “Qiuning is right. Let us be patient. As the saying goes, ‘a rushed heart is unable to savour hot tofu’. Even I, who loves listening to opera, can control myself. Are you all more impatient than me? Forget it, I am also tired now. You can all go back to your own rooms. There is no need to serve me here anymore, and you don’t have to come for dinner either. Just let Qiuning take care of me for a while. She always loves to pass her days leisurely and is the most adept at being lazy.”

On cue, the Old Madam’s maids all provided the background laughter to her jokes. As for the rest, while some of the women were intrigued or interested, the smiles on Jiang Wanying, Concubine Huo and Jin Fengju’s other women were all a little forced. Even so, Jiang Wanying was still able to crack a few jokes before leading Jin Fengju’s harem to say their farewells.

Madam Jiang also stood up and was about to follow the rest of the women out when Fu Qiuning, out of some sick sense of pettiness, called out casually, “One other thing, Elder Madam, the Empress Dowager mentioned that it had been a while since she last saw Old Madam and Elder Madam. She bade me accompany the two elder ladies to the palace tomorrow.”

Madam Jiang was already near the door, but upon hearing that, she suddenly whirled around with sparkling eyes, her voice was a pitch a shade higher as she exclaimed, “Truly? You did not hear wrong? The Empress Dowager wants Old Madam Jin and myself to enter the palace with you?”

Fu Qiuning shrugged. What was so exciting about going to the palace? It’s so stifling.

However, Madam Jiang was truly excited. In fact, it was not at all unusual for the wife of a marquis to enter the palace for the occasional visits. Fu Qiuning might not know that since there had not been a visit since Jin Fengju had forced her out of her private paradise.

In fact, when asked to investigate, Jin Fengju found out that the Empress Dowager did not appear to like Jin Yanqiu, this granddaughter-in-law of hers very much, and this dislike extended to the rest of the family. Although Jin Yanqiu was very charismatic and talented, she was also openly stubborn and headstrong. How could a traditionalist woman like the Empress Dowager favour a woman who oppressed her husband to the point where he deferred to her in many things?

However, ever since the major incident that almost caused Prince Rong to lose the imperial favour, Jin Yanqiu had restrained her wilful attitude a little. After all, no matter what, she was still a pathetic woman in a patriarchal world. She, her children and even her maternal family, could only rely on Prince Rong for survival. Therefore, no matter what internal strife or private feelings she had, she could only restrain them and treat her husband as her god.

This new attitude of restraint came just in time to allow the Empress Dowager to see the Jin family women in more favourable eyes. With the temptation of Fu Qiuning’s opera, the Empress Dowager finally loosened her venerable lips enough to extend the invitation. It was no wonder both Madam Jiang and Old Madam Jin were so surprised and excited.

Fu Qiuning could roughly guess the causes and effects, and she could not help but sigh deeply in her heart. [b] As a modern woman, it pained her to see poor Jin Yanqiu having to bow her head to an unfaithful husband and a judgy grandmother-in-law. However, there was nothing she could do. Even she herself was doing the same thing. She had no choice but to compromise her morals and dignity and sleep with a man she had very little respect for to ensure the safety and future of the twins under her care.

As for Jin Fengju’s grand talk about how she would be safe in the next few months thanks to her work with the palace, did he ever think of the few decades she could have lived in safe anonymity? Of course not, his ambitions and wishes came before everything else. She must remember this, just look at how Jiang Wanying and the rest of Jin Fengju’s other women turned around to give her resentful glares. One of these days, she would also be part of the group that leaves the room first because she was not ‘favoured’ by a man (or his mother and/or grandmother).

[c] Jin Zhenyi watched as the other children left the room with Madam Jiang and the pale-faced Second Mother Jiang. Jin Zhenxuan, Jin Xiuzhen, Jin Xiuru and Jin Xiufen’s eyes were filled with jealousy and resentment. In the past, Jin Zhenyi and Jin Xiunan would also be walking out with them. However, since they were now under the care of the most favoured Fu Qiuning, they could stay behind along with Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao.

For a fleeting moment, a sense of satisfaction rose up inside of him. [c] However, it vanished the instant he remembered why they were here with Fu Qiuning. That’s right, Father threw Mother out of the estate to the village to suffer. So, what if he got to stay back with the Old Madam? If Mother was around, she would love me properly and instruct the maids to prepare all my favourite dishes. And Father… for some reason, he could not picture his father sitting with Mother and laughing cheerfully with her. His heart ached at the thought.

In fact, there was really nothing for the four children to do but sit silently at the end of one table, staring at each other as various thoughts whirled in their heads. Jin Changjiao and Jin Changfeng were [d] especially worried since their mother hated being in the spotlight and disliked being forced to do things she did not wish to do. She hated being troubled and wished for nothing but a peaceful life. However, why did Father have to keep forcing her out? Couldn’t he just leave Mother alone to live her life peacefully? Once again, Jin Changjiao hated herself for revealing that Mother could sing. If only she had not stupidly blurted that out, Father would not have come to Night Breeze Pavilion and subsequently begin bullying Mother into all kinds of situations…

However, Old Madam Jin and Fu Qiuning could not hear the thoughts of the children. After being ordered to stay back, Fu Qiuning nursed her cup of tea for a long time before drinking it. When the old lady saw that the tea was finally gone, she beamed and said, “How is it? This is top-grade Maojian tea that arrived the other day. [2] I didn’t even have the heart to drink it more than a few times. What do you think?”

Before Fu Qiuning could respond, Luo Cui, who was beside her, chimed in with a smile, “Madam, don’t let the Old Madam’s kindness go to waste. You must come up with some good words to praise and appreciate it. Truly, this tea is rare. It is said to grow on cliffs and can only be picked by monkeys. There are only three or four catties of it harvested every year. When the Old Madam received a few taels of this tea the other day, she didn’t even dare to show it in front of the Young Marquis. If it weren’t for how blissfully joyful today’s occasion was, she definitely wouldn’t have been willing to bring it out.”

After Luo Cui finished speaking, the maids all burst out laughing on cue. Jin Zhenyi, Jin Changfeng and the other children were all well-trained to laugh when the maids laughed, so for a moment, the room practically shimmered with laughter. Delighted, Old Madam Jin decided to go further and turned to her oldest maid to say, “Mingyu, why don’t you tear that slut’s mouth for me? She’s getting bolder and dares to mock me, making me sound like a stingy old miser. Quickly, go and slap her mouth.”

Fu Qiuning smiled faintly but said nothing. [a5] She was not in the mood to be part of the background applause for the Old Madam’s ‘brilliant wit’.

Old Madam Jin chuckled and said, “Oh? You think I won’t be willing to have her slapped, eh? Well, since you think so highly of her, I shall give her to you. Let her serve you from now on.”

Seeing that the Old Madam was determined to force a reaction from her, Fu Qiuning shook her head and gave a brilliant little titter, “No, no, I dare not accept. If Elder Sister Luo is sent to my place, I fear that Old Madam will visit my place every day with the excuse of visiting Elder Sister. I know I am filial and do not fear trouble, but I fear how others would secretly hate and curse me!” She finished her speech with a loud thrill of laughter. As expected, the well-trained background characters all laughed as well.

Old Madam Jin chuckled and said, “Very good, I haven’t even spoken my mind yet, and you have already guessed it all. Isn’t that right? That was precisely the excuse I wanted to use. Once I enter your Elegant Mansion, you wouldn’t be able to push me out even if you wanted to.”

Somehow, the laughter went on and on. Some of the maids were even covering their mouths with their hands or handkerchiefs. Clearly, they were veterans in this. The atmosphere certainly felt more exciting with laughter in the air.

Once the shimmering laughter finally petered out, Old Madam Jin dismissed the junior maids, leaving only Ming Yu and Luo Cui to attend to her. She then smiled at Fu Qiuning with narrowed eyes and said, “Alright, everyone has finally left. I heard from Fengju that your performance is so good that my heart is itching to grow seven or eight claws just to scratch it. Well? Can you sing a line or two for me to evaluate? What is so good about it that even the Empress Dowager and Emperor would praise it so?”

Fu Qiuning smiled [e] and thought mockingly to herself: Look here, just who does this old vixen resemble? Or should I say, which fox resembles this old vixen so? Jin Fengju and this Old Madam are clearly related. They have the same taste and the same tactic. They claim to do things for you, but what they are really doing is pleasing their own ego. I am only here to be her entertainment.

Out loud, she said, “If Old Ancestor wishes to listen, this humble woman will comply.” [a6]

Old Madam Jin nodded and said, “Very good, you have done the right thing. I actually like this ‘hidden needle in the cotton’ personality of yours. Being a little reserved is fine. Enduring a bit is nothing. But if you go too far and keep tolerating, it would no longer be the demeanour of a proper mistress, but rather a weakness that invites exploitation.”

[e] Fu Qiuning thought: How ironic that you would say something about me being so tolerating to the point of inviting exploitation. Aren’t I being exploited by you and your precious grandson now? Clearly, the mouth of the privileged cannot be trusted to speak the truth. Perhaps, even Old Madam believes herself to be a kind a benevolent person, just like how her grandson believes himself to be a loving and chivalrous man.

The two of them continued their conversation for a while, and then Fu Qiuning sang a classic selection from the opera <<The Emperor’s Female Son-in-Law>> [3]: “To save Li Lang out of the home, who expected him to be first in the imperial exam…” As expected, Old Madam Jin’s eyes lit up as she listened to it, and she was even happier and more delighted than when she heard that the Empress Dowager had summoned them to the palace.


[Gumihou: Delete, delete, delete, delete]


[a] Deleted x number of words explaining why Fu Qiuning is so, so clever, intelligent, smart, awesome sauce, also deleted ‘how could these bitches compare themselves to royalty’ x 3

[a1] 45

[a2] 148

[a3] 70

[a4] 40

[a5] 86

[a6] 83

[b] Replace some inane blablabla for something more specific. Like her awful husband

[c] Realistic reaction from the children. POV Jin Zhenyi.

The scene was mostly written to make Fu Qiuning look good, but F that.

[d] What is this shit?

Would their mother no longer have to endure mistreatment in this household? In truth, Fu Qiuning had never suffered mistreatment before, and even if someone bullied her, it would ultimately backfire on them. But the children’s minds were such that they believed their mother had been bullied by those detestable women in that large family.

Pill Bug: What about those 6 years of abandonment though?

Gumihou: What about them? It was over in two chapters, it was nothing. Also, ‘bullied by those detestable women’? What about your dear old dad? He’s the source of all misery.

[e] Real thoughts from FQN. You know, just to increase the word count since I had deleted so much. That’s the only reason. I swear.


Pill Bug TL Notes:

[1]       绵里针            Chinese idiom, describes a person who is soft on the outside, but will bite back if pressured.


[2]       毛尖                “Hairy tips” tea,


[3]       女驸马                        Hmmmm, I feel that we have seen this passage before… Oh, right! She sang it in Chapter 12 too.

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