You are currently viewing Higher Level Wife – 199 – Return
Traditional japanese umbrella, traditional japanese accessories concept

Higher Level Wife – 199 – Return

Chapter 199: Return

Author: White Pear Flower


Translated by Pill Bug

Edited by Gumihou


Jiang Wanying beamed brightly at the room in general, “In that case, I will have someone go to the mansion to prepare the rooms and set up other necessary things for our many guests. Fortunately, there is a garden behind the house, and we have all the stages and pavilions we need. It would be the perfect place for rehearsals. We also need to arrange for servants and supplies. Ah, right, and we should set up a kitchen as well…”

Others also started to offer up their suggestions. Fu Qiuning watched in fascination as Jiang Wanying expertly navigated the talk, subtly flattering or criticising suggestions according to each lady’s rank and status. Naturally, the unfavoured women of lower status kept their mouths shut aside from laughing or echoing the suggestions made by their superiors. The subtle jabs aside, it looked like most of the women were having fun if their rosy cheeks were any indication.

Fu Qiuning had no interest in the talk. [a] She was already busy reviewing and training musicians, dancers and singers. Want her to socialise on top of that? No, thank you.

The female chatter ended with Jiang Wanying being put in charge of the whole thing, as per her plan. [b] When the woman flashed a triumphant look at Fu Qiuning, she beamed back gently, silently thanking this ambitious woman for taking up that enormous responsibility.

“Will you not accompany Wan girl to oversee the matter? After all, you are the one who has spent a long time with those singers and dancers. If anything happens, you will be the one who understands it better. Otherwise, there might be some oversights.” Madam Jiang suddenly spoke up. [a1]

Fu Qiuning smiled, “I fear I will only cause trouble with my meddling. I have no experience in household matters.”

Madam Jiang looked taken aback for a moment but nodded stiffly at her reply. [a2] She stared at Fu Qiuning for a long moment, thinking: This woman must have taken Fengju’s soul away with her talents. My dear son may be immune to good looks, but is not immune to good songs. If this is how she had lured him in… well, even the palace was enchanted by her tricks. At least she still has the decency to not meddle in household matters.

A little while later, word arrived that the palace musicians and performers had reached the estate. Fu Qiuning thought it over for a moment before leaving with Jiang Wanying to greet them. At the very least, she should be there as part of the welcome wagon for the people she had been working closely with for the past couple of months, if not to handle the logistics.

It turned out that the palace had sent along 20 to 30 palace maids to serve and accompany the performers and musicians. All of their luggage, including clothes, costumes, musical instruments and even bedding and more was brought in. There were also two eunuchs within the entourage. The eunuchs came forward to state that there was no need for the Duke of Jing’s estate to worry about money or provisions for their ‘guests’ as the palace would prepare everything. There were even 3 or 5 chefs in the group. In the end, there was really nothing much for Jiang Wanying to do aside from escorting the group to the newly renovated estate next door.

[c] The whole thing was rather a hassle. In addition to organising the rooms for the musicians and performers, rooms had to be found for the many maids and servants, as well as a large kitchen for the chefs. Moreover, [c1] the men and women had to be split up. Thankfully, there were not too many actual men and the two eunuchs were sharp and experienced enough to organise everything between themselves.

There were female officials too and they couldn’t sleep in the same place as the palace entertainers, so there’s that bit of headache as well. Everyone was very polite and agreeable. To Fu Qiuning, it was almost like [c2] watching a bunch of excited kids on a field trip settling down with their minders. She left all the pointing and ordering to Jiang Wanying, concentrating only on conferring some small matters with the musicians and checking with them on their music while the singers found corners to train their voices in the meantime.

[c1] Once everything had been settled, a large group of people marched back to the Duke of Jing’s main estate to greet Old Madam Jin. It was an incredibly busy and pointless afternoon. Fu Qiuning had no idea why anyone would move an entire performance troupe, plus servants, into a completely different location to practice a ‘secret performance’ when she could have just commuted alone to the palace every day. However, she was not the boss, so she didn’t worry about it anymore.

By the time Fu Qiuning was able to ditch the lot of them, it was past lunchtime. She was welcomed by Concubine Luo and Concubine Yu, who promptly ordered a meal to be prepared in the personal kitchen. Fu Qiuning merely waved her hand and said, “I’m too tired for a proper meal. Just have the maids bring in some snacks.”

Jian Feng and Yu Jie hurried off, returning with freshly made, steamed Flower Rolls made with schmaltz (chicken oil), White Sugar Cakes, Jujube Pastries and other small but filling snacks.

After picking through the snacks, Fu Qiuning settled down for a well-deserved afternoon nap. 

Things will become hectic again soon, but let’s look at the positives. At least she did not have to commute early. Surely the Emperor must have suggested this move as some kind of ‘reward’ for Jin Fengju, or that Jin Fengju had ‘hinted’ for the Empress Dowager to do this as a way to mitigate her ‘hard work’. Work that he had foisted upon her because of his shit-stirring tendency, by the way.

The only saving grace to that whole thing was that she could sing and dance to her heart’s content without people giving her the side eye. [d] Well, she would still get the envious side eyes, just not the suspicious kinds. Then again, she could sing and dance to her heart’s content back at Night Breeze Pavilion without having to train an entire troupe of singers and dancers. The only good thing about this was… she could go back to teaching opera. Although her skills were training children in singing and not… everything else.

Once the musicians and performers settled in, Fu Qiuning saw more traffic stomping in and out of Elegant Mansion. [d] That’s right, in addition to having to labour every day to teach the performers, she still had to entertain visitors in the form of household maids from various other courtyards and rooms, all coming to coax Fu Qiuning into singing a few lines for them so that they could boast about it during their inevitable meet up at Old Madam Jin’s place. It was incredibly noisy and annoying.


Eventually, two months passed just like that.


The weather remained hot, but a bout of autumn showers cooled the air a little. Still, the rain hampered full-scale training since they could not perform in a large hall, not without revealing too much of the end product. This meant that there were a few parts that could not be rehearsed together. [e] Still, it was good enough to pass since no one would know whether the opera was fully completed or not.

One of the female officials reported to Fu Qiuning that the Empress had been itching to watch the play, but was forced to be patient since she could not easily leave the palace grounds and, [e] shockingly enough, the entire palace troupe dedicated for this new opera had been moved out of her reach.

[e] Fu Qiuning found herself rolling her eyes at that. Either the move was an unsanctioned one by the Emperor, or the Empress Dowager had accidentally shot herself in the foot with this ‘benevolent’ gesture. Frankly, she couldn’t care less. The Empress Dowager would just have to be patient along with the rest of the people pestering her.

“Has everything been rehearsed? Do you need to do anything else?”

Like the rest of the people waiting for this opera to happen, Concubine Yu and Concubine Luo were anxious for updates on the project. They were especially anxious due to the past few days’ unrelenting rain.

Fu Qiuning made some calculations as she watched the rain drizzling outside. [e1] The performers were all professionals and knew each other’s skills and idiosyncrasies well. The musicians had to be told to take breaks every now and then to preserve their strength. To her amusement, they took this as a hint to oil or polish their instruments. Well, who was she to tell them to be less diligent?

As for herself, there was really nothing much for her to do except send a couple of maids to the next-door estate to tell the people to ‘practice, but not too much’ whenever the rain was heavy enough to be a nuisance. Otherwise, she spent her time chatting idly with Concubine Luo and Concubine Yu.

“We are only a few lines away from finishing, no need to rush,” Fu Qiuning smiled. There was no need to tell them about all the intricate details behind that conclusion.

Concubine Yu and Concubine Luo sighed. Concubine Yu looked out at the pattering rain and said, “Didn’t you say that the Young Marquis would be back in a month? Isn’t it close to two months now?”

Luo’shi said, “Didn’t he encounter danger at Jiangnan before? What if…”

“Hush!” Concubine Yu hissed.

Fu Qiuning sipped her tea, pretending not to see the little play that was happening right in front of her. When the ladies changed the subject, she followed along, letting others carry the bulk of the chatter.

The ladies were still chatting when she heard noises from the outside. Looking at the still heavy rain, she muttered, “Who on earth is visiting at this time?”

“Reporting to Madam, Elder Sister Luo Cui has arrived,” a junior maid announced. As if to prove her words, Luo Cui entered the inner room still a little damp, but mostly dry, with shoes that did not match the rest of her clothes. She must have left her raincoat and wooden clogs at the entrance.

Luo Cui beamed and said, “Madam and the concubines, please hurry over to the main courtyard.”

“What happened? Has the Princess Consort arrived?” Fu Qiuning asked. She thought: That person did sort of threaten to come and ‘sort things out’ with her, whatever that meant.

Luo Cui’s lips pursed into a splinter of delightful titters, making the slightly dreary room sparkle with her laughter. Clearly, there was a reason why Old Madam Jin kept that young girl by her side. “No, no, it’s not the Princess Consort. If the Princess Consort really came, it would have caused an even bigger commotion~”

“… I see.” In fact, Fu Qiuning had no idea what this maid was talking about, but she would just roll with it and laugh too. She had learnt that laughing along with Luo Cui’s cue was the best way to keep Old Madam Jin happy, and the habit stuck.

After laughing, Luo Cui said, “If it was the Princess Consort, wouldn’t we need a month to prepare for it? After all, a prince’s status is not much lower than the Emperor’s. When it comes to a family visit, only Elder Madam is allowed to visit, how could a Princess Consort be allowed to carelessly visit her maternal home? That’s right, Madam should hurry and be ready. You shall find out the good news that awaits you when you arrive.”

Fu Qiuning noticed that this clever maid was urging only her and not even looking at Concubine Luo or Concubine Yu. The two older ladies were also socially savvy enough to take the hint and they pretended to be part of the background. That’s right, rank and status were everything in this era. She was the favoured one in this estate, not only by the most capable ‘Young Master’ but also by the Emperor and Empress Dowager. Who would dare slight her now? Not to mention, she had the advantage of being the ‘official wife’ on top of everything.

[g] Her own blood mother was nothing more than the vessel that carried her to term and gave birth to her, but her status as ‘brood mare’ could only push her as high as a ‘concubine’ and nothing else. Even Fu Qiuning’s di-born sister was nothing more than that with her belly nourished by Prince Lie’s seed. The moment the Old Madam dies and Elder Madam Jiang takes over, who knows what will happen to her?

Fu Qiuning changed into something more suitable for the main courtyard and readied herself to brave the rain. Yu Jie had propped open an oiled paper umbrella for her, but Fu Qiuning took it from her saying, “Take one for yourself, it’s better for us to have one umbrella each.”

For some reason, [h] Yu Jie giggled at this and nudged Luo Cui with her elbow. Fu Qiuning frowned but said nothing. On the way, Yu Jie sidled up to Fu Qiuning to say, “Goodness, these umbrellas are so ugly! Aren’t they so very ugly, Sister Luo Cui?”

Luo Cui laughed her sparkling laughter and said, “Indeed, they are too ugly. Ah, how I wish we had some of those lovely peach and willow-green oil-paper umbrellas from Jiangnan~”

“Oh my, how lovely that would be~ Speaking of which, I heard that something special arrived today~?”

Fu Qiuning would have to be an absolute idiot to not know what these two were talking about. 

In fact, let’s continue to be an idiot.

When Fu Qiuning did not pick up on the very obvious hint, the silence became awkward. So much so that Yu Jie could not help herself and gave a little screech, exclaiming dramatically, “Could it be… the Young Marquis had returned? And… with oil-paper umbrellas? Could this  be true, Sister Luo Cui?”

Luo Cui slumped her shoulders even more dramatically as she launched into her monologue, “‘Tis true, and I cannot lie. Madam’s long-awaited person has returned! The Young Marquis came home with some speciality products from the Western Regions, and among them were two large boxes of oil-paper umbrellas! As soon as they were taken out, everyone fell in love with the intricate patterns and paintings. Second Madam and the concubines immediately snatched a few on the spot! Madam should hurry lest there won’t be any left when you arrive.”

“Is that so? That would be too bad indeed,” said Fu Qiuning when the pause went on for too long.

“Oh, is madam not interested in the beautiful umbrellas?” she tittered, still trying to get a reaction out of Fu Qiuning.

Yu Jie chuckled, “Elder Sister is mistaken! How could the Master let Madam fight with the rest of the ladies for an umbrella? Master must have reserved a few special ones just for Madam and the box is now on its way to Elegant Mansion~”

The fact that Yu Jie was probably right somehow irritated Fu Qiuning. “Enough with your nonsense,” she muttered.

Luo Cui laughed and said, “There is no need for Madam to worry, I am afraid that is exactly what Master has planned. However, don’t worry, Even if Yu Jie has let it slip, I will make sure to keep it a secret for you. I won’t let them snatch your things.” She laughed again, sprinting forward in the rain, clearly very happy with her parting shot. Yu Jie cried out something unintelligible and started running after her, leaving Fu Qiuning to walk slowly in the rain.

When they arrived at Health & Longevity Court, the rain had gotten much heavier. However, even the pattering of rain could not drown out the sparkling laughter coming from the living room. Servant girls watching the gates soon spotted Fu Qiuning and quickly came forward to assist her in entering and removing her raincoat and umbrella.

After removing her wooden clogs at the door, Fu Qiuning stepped inside to see the main character of the day sitting right beside Old Madam Jin. He looked thinner and a little browner than usual. She thought: Good, I should not be the only one to suffer for your folly.

Feeling satisfied, she greeted Old Madam Jin and Madam Jiang calmly, completely ignoring the man who was now shooting beams of delight at her with his eyes.

Old Madam Jin, sensing Jin Fengju’s happiness at seeing this wife, spoke up, “Fengju must be tired. Qiuning, take him back and properly arrange for his bath and meals. Just look at him, after two months on the road, he has become this thin. These days, send some more meat, eggs, fish, and shrimp to the side kitchen. I still have some ginseng…”

Before Old Madam Jin could finish, Jin Fengju chuckled, “Why would I need to leech off Old Ancestor? Right when I replied to the imperial decree at the palace, they already rewarded me with tonics. I will even send some to Old Ancestor to show my gratitude.” He stood up, bid farewell to Old Madam Jin, and left. 

Fu Qiuning, Jiang Wanying, and the others followed him outside. Jin Fengju said to his wives and concubines, “I have already ordered the items for you all to be delivered to your respective courtyards. If you are not too tired, let us go to the Elegant mansion together. During the days where I have been away, it must have troubled all of you much.”


[Gumihou: It’s almost funny to see the author doing her best to make Fu Qiuning intelligent yet un-scheming, benevolent yet possessive of ‘someone’, indifferent yet passionate. There’s being complex, and there’s having different characteristics shoved together for your convenience]


[a] Give Fu Qiuning a proper reason for her non-reaction instead of ‘wow, like, these women are so noisy~:p’

[a1] Deleted ‘wow, FQN is so, so clever der der’

[a2] Deleted ‘wow, FQN is really not bad, ehehe’ from Madam Jiang’s thoughts

[b] Petition for better treatment for Jiang Wanying!

[c] Modern people thoughts, because deleted a lot of stupid statements. Need to refill the word count.

[c1] Reduce emphasis on prevention of shenanigans between men and women because, helloo? Not your era?

[c2] Add details on what a large group of performers travelling together would look and sound like

[d] Have Fu Qiuning react to the change with ‘Ugh, why’ instead of ‘uWu’

[e] Actually sensible thoughts

[e1] Actually reasonable thoughts for musicians

[f] Observe this hammer of ‘hint’

She then looked at the autumn rain outside and muttered, “It has been two months since Lord Husband left. Originally, he said he would be back in a month. I wonder what has happened, keeping him back for so long.”

[g] Added some difficult thoughts to replace the ‘aww, my mom and friend can’t come~~ this era is so unfair boohoo~~’ with something more tragic.

[h] Instead of a hint vomit, had the maids do a ‘play’ instead


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Melissa

    My darling I am back did you not miss me? Please let us away so I can spend time with you and regale you with all that is me

    Our girl – great the rooster is back. Deeelightfullll. Let us see what the Rooster has to say about himself in the next chapter

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