Chapter 228: Prudence
Author: White Pear Flower
Translated by Gumihou
Proofread by Pill Bug
After Fu Qiuning sat down at the garden pavilion, Yu Jie hurried over to switch the old pot of tea for a new one before backing out again. Fu Qiulan waited until Yu Jie had left before smiling and saying, “I recall this maid. Father randomly bought her to serve you when you got married. Unexpectedly, six or seven years have flashed by and I see that she has developed well under your guidance.”
Fu Qiuning smiled back and said, “Surely my little sister jests? I have no skill for guiding people. It is all Yu Jie’s own initiative. She is already quite sharp and helped raise two of the Young Marquis’ children. She has gone through thick and thin with me and is not one to be greedy. She certainly deserves credit where it is due.”
Fu Qiulan smiled and said, “I see that she is my elder sister’s right-hand woman. Even so, she is no longer young. Yu Jie must be over twenty now, surely Elder Sister does not intend to keep her until she becomes an old maid? There is a young steward from my household. He is honest and reliable, and has not married since his wife passed away…” Fu Qiuning’s eyebrows rose at this. She thought: So, this is your angle? To pull strings through our servants? Aren’t you people too desperate?  She waited until Fu Qiulan had stopped praising her widowed steward before leaning over to pour tea and said, “I thank my sister for taking the time to think for me. Naturally, as I have little status myself, it is difficult to find a good match for her. The Young Marquis had kindly found a household who is willing to overlook her slave status. Although the background is a little poor, they only requested for her slave status to be removed before the marriage. More importantly, Yu Jie herself is willing and the other side seems decent enough. That’s right, now that New Year is approaching, all the courtyards must be very busy. A prosperous estate like the palace should be much busier than ours. Surely my sister should be occupied with the New Year preparations? Why is Little Sister here instead of helping out at the palace estate?”
Fu Qiulan smiled and said, “No matter how busy it gets, it has nothing to do with me. The Crown Prince’s other wives and concubines are all very capable people. Certain things do not require mentioning for my sister to know. I have no position there. Instead of exchanging idle gossip every day, I would rather come and breathe some fresh air at my sister’s place.” “Oh?” Fu Qiuning took another sip of her tea and waited. Sure enough, tears started falling from Fu Qiulan’s eyes.
Between sobs, Fu Qiulan said, “Our family is so unlucky. Now that Prince Hong has been sent away to Shandong, that road is now closed to us. Father and Grandfather had been so loyal and steadfast in their support, and now they wish to look for a new backer, but who would believe them? Elder Sister is still favoured within the Duke of Jing’s estate, has the Young Marquis ever said anything about whether Prince Rong would accept Father?
As for myself, I am but a mere insignificant concubine within the Prince’s residence. Back when I was pregnant, His Highness honoured me and raised my status to become a proper concubine. How happy was I at that time? However, who knew that in the blink of an eye, I would lose that child and receive news of Prince Hong’s downfall almost at the same time? Alas, as the saying goes, it never rains but it pours. Now that things have gotten so much worse for our family, how could our Crown Prince even be willing to look at me any more? In my heart, I often thought, how much better it would be had I not obtained this position.” Fu Qiuning thought: What nonsense, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. If only you had known? If the palace knew of my skills, would they have forced me into a marriage to the Jin Clan back then? They all fully expected me to conveniently die so that they could make trouble for Jin Fengju and the rest of his family. Want to talk about ‘if only’s? Save your breath.
However, she could not simply just say nothing to this ‘Little Sister’ who was currently sobbing her heart out in front of her. Therefore, Fu Qiuning said, “Hush, Little Sister. Are these words that you could simply speak out loud?”
Fu Qiulan retorted, “What is there to fear? Elder Sister, I have sent all the servants away in hopes of speaking freely with you. Otherwise, the weight of these words would press me to death.” More tears rolled down her cheeks even as she rolled up her sleeves and popped open her collar.
Fu Qiuning thought: Oh, surely not-[3a] What she feared to see was immediately laid out before her. The dark green and yellowing bruises stood out starkly against the white arm, neck and chest. However, instead of feeling sorry for the woman, Fu Qiuning’s first thought was: Do you have to be such a cliché villain?
“This is…” she started cautiously.
Before she could say anything else, Fu Qiulan burst into more tears.
“What else could it be?” with tears streaming rivers down her face, Fu Qiulan shook her head and declared, “It is our heartless lord. Back then, when I first married in, how many sweet words did he whisper to my ear? But what of it? The last time he entered my room after drinking, I, I could not leave the bed for three days. These are just recent scars; my body is riddled with old ones. Sister, I truly envy you. The Young Marquis holds you tenderly in the palm of his hands. Even if Prince Rong were to lose power, what of it? The Emperor’s favour is unwavering, His Highness the Crown Prince knows this and understands how valuable the Young Marquis is when it comes to this kingdom’s governance.
I believe that even after he ascends the throne, he would not dare to scheme against your family. My dear sister, I dare say that your life of wealth and great status will last for a very long time. However, what I fear for most is our Father, Uncle and Grandfather. These few days, I have been seeing them trying to please our lord, but our lord just ignores them. My status is low, and I can barely protect myself, let alone speak on their behalf. Now that matters have come to this, the only one we can rely on is you, sister. Please, at the very least, speak a few good words for them? Now that Prince Rong is losing power, who knows what other changes the future holds? The Emperor’s health is still good…” “Sister!” Fu Qiuning slapped the table. In a cold voice, she said, “It is one thing if you wish to implicate yourself. However, you had better not bring such talk into my courtyard.”
“Elder Sister, I know you do not believe me. But, how could you still guard yourself against me when I look like this?” Even more tears welled up in Fu Qiulan’s eyes as she sobbed some more. However, Fu Qiuning was unmoved. She had no idea what this woman was there for, but to wail and howl like that after sending the servants away was a futile exercise. Anyone meaning to eavesdrop could do so easily. She privately rolled her eyes at these ‘noble people’ ways of keeping secrets.  Feeling even more annoyed, but unable to properly show it, Fu Qiuning removed one of her handkerchiefs and handed it to the still sobbing ‘sister’ of hers. “Enough with the tears and the treacherous talk. If you wish to talk, do so quietly, and I shall listen. However, I don’t know what it is that you wish me to do.”  When the sister sat in sullen silence, she turned towards the door and called, “Someone come.”
Immediately, a line of maids came in. Some were unfamiliar to her, which probably meant that they were brought over by Fu Qiulan.  Their nearly instantaneous response cemented the theory that the maids and servants in this house were always listening in on their masters. The maids’ faces were red from the cold, indicating that they had been standing outside for a long time. In other words, Fu Qiulan was not that good at taking care of her own people either.
Fu Qiuning nodded at the still sniffling Fu Qiulan, “Your Madam Concubine’s health is not very good. It would be best to take her back and make sure she rests well. Yu Jie, have the kitchen send the cream snacks for my sister to bring back with her.” While they were waiting, with nothing better to do and Fu Qiulan not talking, Fu Qiuning filled the silence with talk about Westerners in general.
Eventually, Yu Jie returned with the desired two boxes of snacks.
A maid on Fu Qiulan’s side accepted the boxes. Fu Qiulan had apparently pulled herself together enough to smile beautifully at Fu Qiuning and said, “My dear sister, you may doubt me, but I am fine with it. However, I beg that you take care of Father, Uncle and Grandfather. Otherwise, they truly have nowhere to go.”
Her voice even trembled a little.  Fu Qiuning had to cough into her sleeves to not laugh out loud. If those men truly wanted to live a quiet life, they could just uproot themselves and head over to the countryside and not try to stick to the crown prince. “You just take care of yourself and let the men do whatever they want.  They did as they liked with our lives and they may continue to do so. You just make sure to keep your own corner safe.”  This was the best advice she could give this little sister. It was up to her to take it or not.
Not long after Fu Qiulan’s entourage had left, Jin Fengju lifted the beaded curtain to beam and said, “I heard that your sister has just left. How strange, I do not recall her being close to you. What is she here for?”
Fu Qiuning shrugged and told him. Since he was interested to know, there was no harm in letting him have the information.
After a while, she realised that Jin Fengju was looking at her with oddly moist eyes as he said, “You have always been kind-hearted. I truly fear that you would be deceived by this reckless act. Now it seems all that worry was for nothing. Your sister has suffered much and your father, uncle and grandfather are all helpless now. Qiuning, do you not feel aggrieved for them?”
“What is the point of feeling aggrieved for them? You called me kind-hearted, but there is no reason for me to feel sorry for adults who made foolish decisions for their own selfish reasons. They are neither children nor helpless commoners.   Not to mention, aside from being in no position to assist them, I doubt Lord Husband values them at all.”
Jin Fengju hurried over to beam and said, “Do you truly think me so heartless? I shall be honest and admit that when they married you to me back then, it felt like a slap in the face. However, now that I have you, I understand that it was all a blessing in disguise and I have nothing to complain about. However, I only fear that your father and grandfather would refuse to trust me, worried that I still carry this grudge. No matter what, Prince Hong and His Highness the Crown Prince have joined forces before, but had never even considered working with my brother-in-law before. Even if they were to consider switching sides, I fear that they would only continue to try and win over the Crown Prince’s trust. If they truly were to come to you for help, surely your sister would not have come to your courtyard in tears. Leaving aside her pitiful appearance, it is all a mystery.” Fu Qiuning had no special feelings for the Fu side of the family, whether it was the sister, the father, the grandfather or the as-yet unseen uncle. As she had told Jin Fengju, they were all adults capable of making their own decisions.  So what if they tread down the path that led to their destruction? She was busy enough trying to fend off this person who imagined himself the hero in his own story, conveniently neglecting all thoughts of his other wives and children.  When Fu Qiuning continued to remain quiet, Jin Fengju felt a sudden panic within his heart and was about to say something when Jian Feng’s voice interrupted them. “Madam, this maid has something to report.”
“Your Madam is busy,” said Jin Fengju impatiently. “What is it?”
Jian Feng’s hesitant voice said, “It is about Concubine Lan’s visit.”
“What about it? Never mind, just come in and say it.”
Jian Feng stepped in, looking a little awkward as she looked between an impatient Jin Fengju and an indifferent Fu Qiuning. “Madam, the junior maids that have been sent out earlier have just returned. They found out that Concubine Lan visited Second Madam Wan first, presumably for permission to see Madam before coming here…”
Jin Fengju’s frown deepened, “What is this nonsense? Qiuning is the Official Wife, and no longer a neglected person at Night Breeze Pavilion. Even if she wished to ask for permission, surely it should be from the Elder Madam? What is the purpose of running over to see the secondary wife?”
Jian Feng shook her head, saying, “This maid doesn’t know. One of the lesser maids said that a matron from Concubine Lan’s entourage went to Elder Madam’s place first before they went over to Clear Soft Pavilion. Perhaps Elder Madam did not wish to see anyone and sent them to Second Madam Wan’s place instead.”
[Gumihou: Aww geez, look at everyone being suspicious of JWY]
 Cut down the kleberr talk, and develop the mental voice a little more  Add ‘hard facts’  Hmm, how do we make everyone hate Prince Lie even more? Let’s make him abuse his concubine, yeah! [3a] Fine, whatever, insert the scene if you like. But I shall clean it up so that it’s properly dramatic instead of trite  Melodrama~~ Fu Qiuning suddenly interrupted her with a stern voice. She grabbed Fu Qiulan’s shoulder and reprimanded her, “Even if you have grievances, you shouldn’t speak such rebellious words.. etc etc for 100 words
Gumihou: Anyway, just shut her up. Deleted ‘FQN’s heart ached at the tears’ because, hello? You don’t know this bitch?
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