Xin Lan Yuan
Sun Ru Yi clambered on her bed, while her servant girl, Fei Cui, was applying medicine on her injury.
“Can you be a little gentler with your hands? It hurts so much.”
“Miss, this servant is already trying to be as gentle as possible. Please bear with it a little.”
“How can I bear it? You’re not the one going through this much pain.”
Sun Ru Yi had always been spoiled, and as the only legitimate daughter of the second branch, she never had to undergo any form of adversity growing up. But this time, she was really made to suffer.
Once the medicine was applied, Sun Ru Yi crawled on her bed and waited for the medicine to dry out. A servant girl approached to report that Third Miss of the eldest branch had come.
Sun Ru Hua was the concubine-born daughter of the eldest branch. She was gentle, quiet, and tolerant of Sun Ru Yi’s unruly personality, so they had been close since childhood.
Hearing that it was her who had come, Sun Ru Yi was a bit reluctant, but she still pulled her skirt down and had her led in.
“What did you come see me for?”
“Just came to see if Fourth Sister feels better after her injury.”
Mentioning this, Sun Ru Yi was filled with resentment. Obviously the two of them had gone there and were thrown out together, but Sun Ru Hua was not the least bit injured, and she was instead the one to suffer a loss. The past few days, the rumors had spread boisterously throughout the manor, making her lose face, so she inevitably felt some rage.
Sun Ru Hua also seemed to sense her mood and felt guilty, “It’s all because I didn’t protect Fourth Sister at that time. Otherwise, Fourth Sister wouldn’t have fallen like this.”
“Alright, it’s not your fault. You fell that time as well,” Sun Ru Yi assured. Although she was unruly and capricious, she wasn’t a completely unreasonable character.
Sun Ru Hua perched herself on the edge of the bed, fanned Sun Ru Yi with a circular fan, and said in a soft voice, “Fourth Sister, I actually came today to inquire about something.”
“What is it?”
“That nobleman, do you intend to give up on him?”
Of course not. He was a prince, a prince ah!
A genuine royal offspring!
Perhaps the entire Sun family, except for Sun Qing Hua, had never seen such a person in their lives. Especially such a youthful and attractive prince like him, it was too much of a temptation for a lady who hadn’t yet left the boudoir.
If she could secure the position of a prince consort, or even just a mere side consort, she would have a promising future and be hailed as a blessing by her family.
“Why are you asking this?”
Sun Ru Hua hesitated, covered her mouth with a round fan, leaned against her ear, and murmured, “If Fourth Sister has chosen not to give up, allow me to give you a piece of advice. You are already aware that Old Madam let fourth sister-in-law copy Buddhist scriptures in Lin Bi Pavilion, and that Lin Bi Pavilion is near Banyan Garden. Why don’t we……”
“That man is a bandit. Look what he did to Miss’s hand. This servant pleaded with Miss to ask for leave from Old Madam, yet you didn’t listen. Your hand must heal before you copy the scriptures ah.”
These two days, the bruises on Fang Feng Sheng’s wrist had transformed from blue to swollen red, and then from swollen red to purple. Anyway, the more horrifying it looked, the more dismay Zhi Chun felt, and from time to time, she would voice out her displeasure.
“It’s alright. It looks hideous, but it doesn’t delay writing. If you cover it with something, you won’t be able to see it.” Feng Sheng plucked the beads on her wrist.
As she was speaking, two women stepped in from outside the door—Third Miss, Ru Hua, and Fourth Miss, Ru Yi.
The one wearing a lilac-colored summer dress was Ru Yi. She had a pair of apricot eyes and was as pretty as a picture. The other wearing a lotus-root colored summer shirt was Ru Hua. She was not as lively as Sun Ru Yi, but she was elegant and subtle, with an extraordinarily gentle and virtuous temperament that attracted attention.
“We have come to see fourth sister-in-law.”
Feng Sheng stood up to greet them and led them to a chair beside her before asking, “Why have the two sisters come?”
“Grandmother has been feeling uncomfortable lately. Fourth Sister and I are anxious in our hearts and only wish we could suffer in her stead. I heard that fourth sister-in-law is helping Grandmother copy scriptures and pray for blessings, so I specifically went to ask Grandmother for this errand, wanting to help fourth sister-in-law copy scriptures and also pray for Grandmother’s blessings together, just as a filial duty,” Sun Ru Hua explained with her head half-hung.
“So that’s how it is.” Fang Feng Sheng bored her eyes through the two of them and paused her gaze on Sun Ru Hua.
“Yes ah, fourth sister-in-law. Please don’t hesitate, we will definitely copy the scriptures properly and not cause you any trouble,” Sun Ru Yi reassured her.
“Did Grandmother agree to this?”
“She agreed, otherwise we wouldn’t have taken the liberty of coming here.”
“That’s fine. Nine times isn’t much, but it will take some days for a single person to finish, and having two sisters to help will ease the burden for me. It’s just that, this Lin Bi Pavilion is a waterside pavilion1, and Zhou mama helped prepare the desk I use and a bunch of other things. If the two sisters join……”
“Please don’t fret, fourth sister-in-law. We’ve already prepared everything beforehand.”
Sun Ru Yi winked at Fei Cui, and Fei Cui hurried out.
Not long after, a few young manservants and grannies carried the table and chairs in, which had obviously been readied in advance.
After that, the two were diligent. After consulting Feng Sheng, they took the scriptures and copied them, unexpectedly not disturbing Feng Sheng’s writing.
In the meantime, Feng Sheng excused herself to use the latrines and took Zhi Chun with her to leave temporarily.
Lin Bi Pavilion didn’t have a room used for such needs, but there was one in a small courtyard nearby. Usually, if they didn’t return to Autumn Hall in the middle of the day, Feng Sheng and Zhi Chun went here to solve their problems.
Autumn Hall was actually a bit far from Lin Bi Pavilion. One was in the south of the manor, while the other one in the north, and with the summer heat, Feng Sheng didn’t have the drive to go back. Anyway, Lin Bi Pavilion had everything available, and a small couch was also arranged for resting. These few days, Feng Sheng had been in Lin Bi Pavilion throughout the day, and she only retreated to Autumn Hall at night.
“Miss, what do you think the third and fourth misses are up to? They’re not giving up, are they?” They were nothing but little thieves waiting to snatch an opportunity, and Zhi Chun inevitably thought of the incident that happened a few days ago.
“You already know, yet you’re still asking.”
“This servant is just a little surprised. Say, how could Master, Madam, and the others allow this to happen? This is obviously something that may tarnish a woman’s reputation, but they acquiesced.”
Feng Sheng wiped her hands clean and slid the beads back on, slowly and methodically tidying her sleeves as she spoke, “If it were in public, they would somewhat pay attention to saving face. But this is their own manor, so who would dare talk nonsense? Even if they do something, outsiders won’t come to know.”
Zhi Chun pursed her lips as she expressed, “Old Madam has always paid attention to the rules, but she also just sits back and watches.”
Feng Sheng was also surprised. She initially thought that Old Madam had cooked up a wicked scheme. Never would she have imagined that Old Madam would allow the third and fourth misses to interfere.
Things were indeed getting more and more interesting.
“Old Madam, why did you allow Third and Fourth Miss? It’s not……” Zhou mama was pounding Old Madam’s leg as these words flowed out of her mouth.
Of course, Old Madam understood what Zhou mama meant.
She sighed, “I was thoughtless, always thinking of solving the root of the problem, forgetting that this is actually an opportunity. If our daughter can climb up and form a relationship with the prince, this will be a great blessing for the whole family. The Master won’t have to worry about not advancing in his career, and he won’t have to worry about Wen Cheng’s future.”
“But Old Madam, don’t you forget Third Miss.”
Old Madam’s face immediately darkened at the mention of this matter: “Song-shi is really useless, only teaching the fourth girl to be naive. And that eldest branch, that branch, not a single person there is good. The third girl is always the one encouraging the fourth girl to step in front and play the lead, while she shrinks at the back to sit and enjoy the fruits of success. But anyway, this kind of thing, others shouldn’t know. If it were only the fourth girl, it would be too obvious. With the third girl there, we can at least cover up a thing or two.”
“Then if Third Miss wins the prince’s favor, wouldn’t the eldest branch—”
Old Madam shot straight up and paced back and forth in the hall, obviously unsettled.
Zhou mama held her up and followed suit.
“The prince’s preferences are hard to fathom. I can only hope now that with those two there, they can at least outshine that one. Fang Feng Sheng is a smart one. Doesn’t she want to overturn the case for her father? This is the best chance for her. As long as one can win the Third Prince’s favor, not to mention overturning the case, it won’t even be difficult to become the master’s woman.”
Zhou mama was very shocked, as she didn’t expect Old Madam to have such an idea. She had always thought that Old Madam was trying to make Fourth Young Madam suffer a dumb loss, such that she wouldn’t be able to utter a complaint despite bitterness sprouting from her heart. If that happened, the problem would be resolved naturally, but now—
“It will be best if that blade can be used as ours, but nothing forcibly done will be agreeable. However, it won’t be any use if we’re the only ones moving; there must also be some effort on her part. Once things are done, she will naturally be unable to sit still in the position of a main wife, and will ask to leave without us having to express it—this is one thing. She will be ashamed to see Wen Cheng after making a filthy mess, and Wen Cheng will be given an explanation—this is the second. The Third Prince, after having been tainted by Wen Cheng’s wife, will feel ashamed for the Sun family, so he will naturally find other ways to compensate, and Fang Feng Sheng’s wills won’t be as important—this is the third. In fact, if I could choose, I certainly hope that the fourth girl will have the blessing, but there’s still a need to take care of everything with both hands.”
“Old Madam is wise!” After such an analysis by Old Madam, Zhou mama really couldn’t remain unconvinced.
“Later on, have someone go to Autumn Hall and ask Fang-shi to bring me the copied scriptures to look at.”
Sun Ru Yi and Sun Ru Hua couldn’t hold on for more than half a day.
Actually, it was mainly Sun Ru Yi.
Feng Sheng observed Sun Ru Hua with cold eyes and perceived that she was extremely patient.
But Sun Ru Yi couldn’t help but pull her out for a breath of fresh air, so Sun Ru Hua had no choice but to tag along with her.
The two of them had to go out for air from time to time, but Feng Sheng didn’t care and just copied by herself. When the sun set on the west, they came in from outside and declared it was getting late, so they would go home and come back the next day.
Feng Sheng nodded and asked Zhi Chun to help her pack, also ready to return to Autumn Hall.
As soon as she arrived at Autumn Hall, someone from Xiwu Hall reported, stating that Old Madam had requested Fourth Young Madam to come over to check the scriptures she had copied.
The past few days, Feng Sheng had also finished copying two volumes, so she ordered Zhi Chun to take them and walked to Xiwu Hall.
“Feng Sheng’s handwriting is really good.” Old Madam flipped through them lovingly and conveyed to Zhou mama.
“No, although this servant is illiterate, I can say that the characters resemble a beautiful painiting.”
“Old Madam overpraises.”
“One more thing, the third and fourth girls didn’t give you any trouble, did they? These two girls came to Xiwu Hall and begged me for several hours, but I couldn’t stand their pleas and agreed in the end.”
“Third and Fourth Miss were diligent and didn’t cause any trouble for this granddaughter-in-law.”
“That’s good.” Old Madam nodded.
At that moment, a maid served Feng Sheng tea.
This was a rare thing in Xiwu Hall. After all, Old Madam was an elder, and Feng Sheng, as her granddaughter-in-law could drink tea anywhere but here, as there was no tea seat.
“Old Madam, how can this be done?”
“What can’t be done? I know you like tea. This Lu’an Mountain’s green tea is new this year. You worked hard for this old woman copying scriptures and praying, and this old woman is not ungrateful. It’s only a cup of tea, just take it.”
Fang Feng Sheng could only sit down below, take a sip of the tea, and praise that the tea was really tasty and fragrant.
Old Madam then said that she would ask her servant to pack some and ask Fourth Young Madam to bring it back later.
For a while, the atmosphere was very harmonious.
“Actually, this old woman has always had something to ask from her heart. I wonder if you blame me, Feng Sheng?”
Feng Sheng was sincerely terrified and put down her tea, “Grandmother, where are you starting with this?”
“The human heart always carries grudges, and if I were you, I’d be resentful,” Old Madam sighed.
Feng Sheng lowered her head, “Granddaughter-in-law is not resentful, nor does she dare to be!”
“Look! You still have a knot in your heart. In the past, this old woman treated you coldly because we didn’t get along, and also because of Yue’er. She was raised by my side as she had lost her parents when she was young. I’m not sure when she fell in love with Wen Cheng, but Wen Cheng was already engaged to you. Regarding this matter, Wen Cheng’s father and I are aware of it and won’t speak for her. After all these years, she’s harbored a grudge against you in her heart. If I treat you kindly, I will only deepen this hatred. But after spending a long time with you, I can see that you’re a good child. You know how to be polite and courteous, so there’s nothing about you for others to pick on.”
“And then there’s this time. You probably still blame this family for not allowing you to go back to the Fang family. You know that my Sun family’s foundation is weak, and I really can’t afford and don’t dare to provoke any trouble. This big family consists of more than a hundred people, and once a wrong move is made, there will be doom with no hope of reprieve, so I have no choice but to be careful.”
1 Just thought I’d add a photo of what I imagined the waterside pavilion to look like.