The door to the inner room was wide open, and bypassing a sourwood ink folding screen1, the bedroom could be seen in full view.
There were not many feminine items in Fang Feng Sheng’s room. Compared to the average woman, she was rarely seen admiring flowers and plants and almost never applied powder and rouge. Hence, in her room there were only books and paintings.
The plain blue-green curtains and pale pink lotus-colored beddings all didn’t match her age. Some cursive script hung on the walls. Most servants couldn’t understand what was written on them, but they all knew that Fourth Young Madam was a well-read and talented woman.
That very moment, the curtain was half-drawn, and on the couch there was an outline of a sleeping person facing away. What was more surprising was that there was a man in disheveled clothing standing across from it.
The man was not very old, around twenty, wearing clothing tailored for manservants. His belt had been unfastened and his outer robe slightly undone, revealing his inner garments.
“You’re Qian Er!” Xiao Die exclaimed.
Qian Er panicked and cast a conspicuous glance on the couch, then hesitantly shifted his gaze at everyone, as though pondering an escape route.
“How did you end up here? Where’s Fourth Young Madam?” Xiao Tao interrogated.
It was only then that everyone realized that this was Fourth Young Madam’s bedroom, and a man had appeared inside. In this case——
Did Fourth Young Madam have an affair?
He mama immediately sobered up, and no matter how old and confused she was, she perceived that if the matter was not properly handled, the Miss’s reputation would plummet.
After the initial excitement, cold sweat started trickling down her back.
Without much thought, she scampered towards Qian Er, yanked him forward, and shrilly accused: “Well, you little thief! You actually dared to steal from our Autumn Hall, see if I don’t slap you to death!”
Hands heavy, He mama slapped Qian Er straight in the face without the slightest intention of letting him speak.
Did Fourth Young Madam invite him over?
The room fell into a strange silence.
Soon after, a voice drifted in from the doorway, “Why is no one here? Where are the people in this yard?”
It was the eldest branch’s Third Young Madam, Hu-shi, who roamed in.
Earlier that morning, Hu-shi had blurted out a few wrong words that infuriated the Eldest Madam.
So the several masters in the manor, except for Fang Feng Sheng who was in mourning, left her at home. No one knew why she suddenly decided to drop Autumn Hall a visit.
Hu-shi’s voice was like an opening spell. Xiao Tao snapped back to reality and rushed out as though frightened, not even stopping for a second when Zhi Chun tugged at her.
“Where have all the people gone?” Hu-shi was shaking her circular fan, rather impatient.
She was in her mid-twenties, wearing a round-necked summer shirt embroidered with pomegranate peony twigs and an eight-pleated silk skirt embroidered with roses on scallion-white fabric. Her face was the shape of a melon seed, with phoenix eyes and faintly upturned lips, looking fierce and gorgeous.
Her servant girl, Cui’er, speculated, “They’re probably hiding away drinking wine somewhere.”
“Even if they’re out drinking, there still shouldn’t be no one at all ah.”
As she said this, someone dashed out of the house without warning. Hu-shi was unprepared and stumbled backwards, almost falling, but fortunately Cui’er held her back from behind.
“What are you doing?! Do you have no eyes?!”
Xiao Tao was scared out of her wits and mumbled, “There’s a man in Fourth, Fourth Young Madam’s room…”
Hu-shi was one who had a penchant for trouble, and given the situation, she naturally had no desire to leave. He mama and Zhi Chun had heard the commotion and ran out to stop her, but she swatted them away and marched in with Cui’er.
“Man? Where’s the man? Heh, there really is a man. Isn’t that Qian Er?”
If they still had no idea what was going on, they’d all be blind.
This obviously meant that Fourth Young Madam took advantage of how no masters were home and secretly smuggled her lover inside, not expecting to be exposed. What was even more unfortunate was that it was Hu-shi who had caught them, and now the matter couldn’t be hidden even if they willed it.
Hu-shi peered at the ugly faces of He mama and Zhi Chun, and then went to look at the unmoving person behind the curtain. She laughed a little and sighed, “Say, fourth sister-in-law ah, how can you do such a thing? What will we tell fourth younger brother when he comes back?”
She gently shook the round fan and slumped down on one side of the chair, fully taking pleasure from another’s misfortune: “You’re mourning now, and you were mourning your mother when you married into the family. Mourning one after another, making my poor fourth brother stay by an innocent young girl’s side, but not allowing him to ‘see or eat’. Well, now my poor fourth brother had no other choice but to study outside. Who would’ve thought that fourth sister-in-law actually liked this type?”
When she spat out ‘this type’, her pair of phoenix eyes swept all over Qian Er’s body.
Although Qian Er’s appearance was currently untidy, it was hard to hide his handsomeness, especially with hard muscles bulging on his exposed chest. He looked powerful compared to Sun Wen Cheng’s handsome white face. Only an experienced married woman like Hu-shi could understand the difference, so her gaze was quite meaningful.
Hu-shi was the only daughter-in-law of the Sun family who wasn’t from a decent household. In fact, it wasn’t that Hu-shi’s background wasn’t satisfactory. It was just that, as a butcher’s daughter from a humble family, she couldn’t compare to her brothers-in-law’s wives4, seeming vulgar and crude in comparison.
But it couldn’t be helped that the Third Young Master was fond of her fiery personality, and that they already had a personal relationship prior to marriage. This pre-marital affair got blown out of proportion, so in the end he had to marry Hu-shi. Other than Fang Feng Sheng, Hu-shi was the most disliked granddaughter-in-law in the Sun Manor.
The whole family was aware of Hu-shi’s character. She was argumentative, gossipy, and took delight in mischief. So when she spouted out such things, no one was surprised, but they couldn’t help but blush in shame.
He mama, in particular, was apprehensive and had countless rebuttals she wanted to fire out, but she just swallowed her words after facing such a scene.
“Your name is Zhi Chun, right? Quickly wake up your Fourth Young Madam. Just lying down there will do nothing ah, things have to be resolved.”
He mama was so anxious that she repeatedly shook her head as though her life was on the line, but her reaction only made Hu-shi glare at her in disdain. Seeing that she hadn’t instructed Zhi Chun to do anything, she gave a Cui’er a wink.
Without saying a word, Cui’er headed over to the bed.
At the same time, a voice suddenly floated in, “What are you guys doing?”
Hu-shi hadn’t reacted yet and just assumed that someone was trying to obstruct her.
She very impatiently forced out, “What can I do? Can’t I call my sister-in-law?”
“What is third sister-in-law calling me for?”
Hu-shi turned her head and her eyes widened in disbelief, as though looking at some kind of monster.
Fang Feng Sheng was holding a book in her hand. Puzzled, she asked, “Why is third sister-in-law looking at me like that?”
The room was silent, and everyone’s expressions looked like they’d witnessed a monster get conjured out of thin air.
“What’s going on here?”
Fang Feng Sheng obviously came in from the outside, which meant that the person on the couch wasn’t her. And since it wasn’t her, it meant that nothing happened between her and Qian Er, so an affair was out of the question.
He mama was busy narrating the whole story, and after listening, Fang Feng Sheng revealed an expression of sudden enlightenment tinged with a bit of disappointment.
“So third sister-in-law is here to catch me in the act?”
“No, no, no, how could I possibly accuse fourth sister-in-law of adultery?” Hu-shi stood up sharply, her expression a bit embarrassed, “We’re the only two left in the house, and it’s no fun drinking alone, so I’m here to have a drink with fourth sister-in-law. This has nothing to do with me, I just accidentally walked into it. By the way, since fourth sister-in-law is here, who is that person on the bed?”
Feng Sheng took one look at Zhi Chun. Zhi Chun stepped forward and lifted the blanket off the couch.
There was no one on the couch, but there was a soft pillow under the blanket.
“I wanted to take a nap, but it was stifling hot, so I went to the study,” Feng Sheng explained.
In other words, Qian Er sneaked into the room and mistook the raised futon for a person, exposing his ill intent, but didn’t expect to be discovered by Xiao Tao?
But it didn’t make any sense. Qian Er, having eaten the bear heart and leopard gall5, even dared to break into Fourth Young Madam’s bedroom.
And what did Qian Er mean by what he had said just now? Obviously implying that it was Fang Feng Sheng who invited him, giving the illusion that Fourth Young Madam had a personal relationship with him.
Feng Sheng frowned and commanded, “Tie up Qian Er first and count every person present. I will make sure Old Madam gives me justice on this!”
In Xiwu Hall, the Sun family gathered together.
Old Madam sat on the main seat. The First Master, Sun Qing Bin, and the Second Master, Sun Qing Hua, as well as the Eldest Madam, Huang-shi, and the Second Madam, Song-shi, all sat with her. As for the rest of the younger generation, they were all unseated and stood aside.
It was also a coincidence that they had just returned the moment Fang Feng Sheng came looking for them, so everyone in the Sun family was there.
“This is roughly how things are, and I ask grandmother to give justice to this granddaughter-in-law.”
After listening to Fang Feng Sheng recount the whole story, the Old Madam’s face was as black as ink.
Without waiting for the Old Madam to speak, the Eldest Madam, Huang-shi stood up and reproached, “Hu-shi, I leave the house for just one day, and you’re causing trouble again. You’re grounded this time. Tell me what you were doing running to Autumn Hall!”
Hu-shi felt wronged and poured out, “Mother, the whole family went to watch the Dragon Boat Race, but you left me at home and didn’t even let Brother Mao accompany me. How can you bear to punish me like this on a holiday? I was bored and alone, and I didn’t even have anyone to drink with. I was thinking that fourth sister-in-law would be home, so I went to have a drink with her, but I didn’t expect such a thing to happen. I told fourth sister-in-law at the time that I had nothing to do with it, so why are you blaming me again?”
Hu-shi lamented as she wiped her tears with a handkerchief, and the Third Young Master, Sun Wen Mao, was heartbroken.
“Mother, what does this have to do with Hu-shi? What are you blaming her for?”
“Who told her to bother the second branch for no reason? If not for her running to Autumn Hall, can this matter have anything to do with her?! Getting herself into trouble for nothing!”
“How could she know this was going to happen? She wouldn’t have gone if she did.”
“And you’re speaking for her? Talking back to your mother for her, see if I don’t kill you!” Huang-shi raised her hand to hit Sun Wen Mao, but Sun Wen Mao shrank his head to evade. In front of so many people, causing a scene like this was like child’s play.
Sun Qing Bin admonished, “What are you fussing for? Mother is still here!”
He threw out those sentences, but they were actually empty words. One could tell by his expression that he was used to seeing this kind of scene and had no desire to care.
Old Madam turned pale with anger, repeatedly slapping the armrest of the chair, “Disgraceful! Sinful ah!”
Sun Qing Hua frowned and snapped, “Okay, all shut up! Call Qian Er over and ask him what’s going on!”
Although Sun Qing Hua was the second in line, Sun Qing Bin was mediocre and passive, so Sun Qing Hua became the head of the Sun family. He had always been dignified in front of the Sun family, and since he had spoken, others naturally didn’t dare say anything more.
Qian Er was quickly brought up.
He appeared quite frightened, much unlike the ferocious look he’d worn when he berated He mama, and he was paralyzed on the ground as if he had no muscle.
The housekeeper, Sun Hai, had already interrogated him once and reported: “Qian Er said he wanted to go to Fourth Young Madam’s room to steal something, but he didn’t expect to be caught by Xiao Tao…”
Qian Er crawled on the ground, trembling, “Master, Old Madam, please investigate. This lowly one just wanted to steal something in exchange for money and didn’t have any bad intentions towards Fourth Young Madam.”
Qian Er nodded his head repeatedly, “Yes, this lowly one recently lost a lot of money gambling with people, and was compelled by others to do something wrong for a while.”
He mama didn’t hold back and stepped out, “Old Madam, masters and madams, please allow this servant to ask him a question.”
Without waiting for the three of them to acquiesce, she began to question Qian Er, “You said you were trying to steal. So many masters in the house were outside, but instead of going to other yards, why did you come to Autumn Hall instead?”
Yes, so many masters were out of the manor. It was reasonable to say that since no one was in their courtyards, it was much easier to steal. Was Qian Er out of his mind that he instead decided to steal something from Autumn Hall?
I see that the girl is in a hurry to leave Sun Manor. Don’t worry, she will leave after a few more chapters. The woman is definitely leaving, but not this way.
Tackle mission: leave the Sun family.
Tackling difficulty— —
Fang Feng Sheng: I am the heroine. I want to avenge my father’s death and uncover the mystery of his questionable suicide. However, I’m married and I want to leave my in-laws, but I can’t let them know.
Old Madam: I’m the heroine’s cheap grandmother. I never liked this granddaughter-in-law from the very beginning. She’s causing problems every day. Not only did she block my precious grandchild’s way, she also brought trouble to the family. I want her to get lost, but others shouldn’t know these thoughts.
Fang Feng Sheng: I want to leave, but I don’t want to be stigmatized.
Old Madam: I want her to get lost, but I need to consider the Sun family’s reputation.
Fang Feng Sheng: I want to leave, but not with a divorce letter.
Old Madam: I want her to get lost, but how am I going to explain this to my fourth grandchild?
Old Madam: I have to think of a surefire way to get her to scram without ruining the Sun family’s reputation and still allow the grandparents and grandchildren to have a loving and harmonious relationship.
Fang Feng Sheng: I’m waiting for Old Madam to think of a plan.
1 Something like this:
2 大爷 (dà ye): lit. son of an arrogant idler; uncle. One way of referring to oneself arrogantly.
3 老子(lǎo zi): “I, your father” (in anger, or out of contempt), but I translated it to the illeism ‘this daddy’ as it has more attitude.
4 妯娌 (zhóu li): collectively, wives of her brothers/brothers-in-law, or simply sisters-in-law. I was going to translate this as just sisters-in-law, but there are very specific terms to address/refer to one’s sister-in-law. Hu-shi calls Feng Sheng (四, fourth)弟妹 (dì mèi), which is an address specific to the younger brother’s wife. Another term for sister-in-law is 嫂子 (sǎozi) or 嫂嫂 (sǎosao), which is used to address the elder brother’s wife. Feng Sheng calls her 三嫂 (sansǎo), meaning third elder brother’s wife.
5 吃熊心豹子胆: idiom, ‘to eat bear heart and leopard gall’; meaning, ‘to pluck up some courage’