This extra chapter is dedicated to Emme. Happy birthday!
“Which of this lowly official’s daughter is Your Highness interested in?”
De Wang glanced at his master and spat out, “How many daughters does Lord Sun have ah? It’s the one who writes pretty well. What, is Lord Sun unwilling?”
“Of course this lowly official doesn’t dare to be unwilling. No no no, this lowly official is extremely happy to do so.” Probably not anticipating that what he desired to happen would be fulfilled, Sun Qing Hua was so happy that he couldn’t smoothen out his words.
“This lowly official understands. This lowly official will go and bring the little girl.”
Staring at Sun Qing Hua’s back, De Wang smiled and exclaimed, “Look at how happy Lord Sun is! But for his daughter to follow Master, it’s only because their Sun family has burned incense on their ancestral graves, emitting green smoke in broad daylight!1“
“You talk too much!”
That said, maybe others couldn’t see it, but De Wang could tell that his master was in a pleasant mood.
When Song-shi arrived at Xin Lan Yuan, Sun Ru Hua was there.
She beckoned Sun Ru Yi in to say a few words, informed her to get ready, and sped out first. Even though it was a great and happy occasion, it wasn’t that much glorious in the end, especially with Sun Ru Hua here again.
When Song-shi left, Sun Ru Yi’s face was wreathed in smiles as she called Fei Cui in to dress her up. Several maids busied themselves fetching water and preparing clothes and jewelry, causing Sun Ru Hua, who was sitting in the inner room, to repeatedly cast them strange looks.
“Are you saying that the third prince has taken a liking to you and intends to admit you into his manor?”
Sun Ru Yi looked askance at Sun Ru Hua, “What? Don’t look down on being taken in as a concubine. Mother said that it isn’t easy to enter the gates of the prince’s manor. Not one titled concubine2 isn’t the daughter of a noble or a high official. But that doesn’t matter, as long as I can please His Highness and gain his favor, even if I enter as a concubine now, I might be able to sit as a side consort someday.”
Sun Ru Hua smiled reluctantly, “Fourth sister, don’t misunderstand, I’m just a little surprised.”
“Then you continue to be surprised, I still have to dress up and groom myself to impress the third prince. I don’t know how His Highness noticed me to the extent that he even asked Father for my name. Could it be that he was secretly watching me? Speaking of which, I have to thank Third Sister. If it wasn’t for your plan, I wouldn’t have been able to get such a great advantage.”
Sun Ru Hua clutched her handkerchief, her silver teeth gritting darkly, and laughed until she spat blood in her heart.
Sun Qing Hua took Sun Ru Yi to Banyan Garden.
It was still the same hall, but Zong Yue was no longer there, and instead it was De Wang who faced the father and daughter.
“Eunuch De, this is the little girl.”
“Not this one, not this one, you’re mistaken.”
The father and daughter stared at each other incredulously.
De Wang chided, “Lord Sun, how many daughters do you have that you’re unclear ah? It’s the one who’s pretty skinny, writes well, and can sing a folk tune!”
“This……” Sun Qing Hua was sweating in anxiety, “Eunuch De, I don’t understand what you’re saying ah.”
Sun Ru Yi’s delicate face was filled with consternation, not intending to give up: “How can it possibly be wrong? The prince is interested in me. Could it be that you’re mistaken, Eunuch?”
“Mistaken? You may have gotten it wrong, but I didn’t! Go go go, if you don’t hurry to get her out of here and leave her here yelling, be careful of disturbing the master, otherwise you all pay attention to your skin.”
Sun Qing Hua couldn’t be bothered to ask any more questions and hastened to drag Sun Ru Yi away.
When he returned, he discussed it with Song-shi, but in the end they couldn’t think of exactly who it was.
If it wasn’t Sun Ru Yi, could it be Sun Ru Hua? But Sun Ru Hua couldn’t sing a folk tune either.
“Master, why don’t you go ask Old Madam?”
Sun Qing Hua just remembered Old Madam, and as though granted amnesty, dashed to Xiwu Hall.
He reiterated the matter to Old Madam.
Old Madam frowned and said, “I originally thought it was Fang-shi, but that eunuch said she can sing a folk tune. Are there misses in our family who can sing folk tunes?”
“There should be no mistake. The third prince himself said it was a miss from the manor. Concubine Qin’s folk tune is quite good though. Could it be Ru Fang?”
Ru Fang was Sun Qing Hua’s concubine-born daughter, ranked sixth, born of Concubine Qin, but had never been favored, and had rarely shown her face in front of people.
“Then why don’t I bring Ru Fang to have a look? Mother.”
“No!” Old Madam waved her hand and intoned: “Even if we want to climb up to the prince’s level, we can’t do it too openly. You’re a civil official, you have to be more or less reserved. Just picking and choosing like this, how will the misses have the face to go out in the future? It also won’t sound good if this spreads out. Let’s settle it this way, you approach the eunuch and ask for the third prince to come to my courtyard. I will call all girls of the right age from both the eldest and second branches, and on the surface, it will appear as though they’re visiting the elders. They can be seen through the other side of the screen. We can only do it this way so as not to damage the face of this family’s misses.”
“But if the third prince disagrees?”
“He’s a dignified prince, he can’t fail to understand this matter. Besides, if he really likes that miss, he would definitely come.”
“Alright, Mother, I’ll do it now.”
Sun Qing Hua made another trip to Banyan Garden and relayed to De Wang their intention.
De Wang originally didn’t even bother to pass on words to him, but couldn’t stand how he was begging incessantly and kept stuffing silver onto his bosom, so he trudged in and talked things over with Zong Yue.
Although Zong Yue was a little unhappy, he still acceded.
Although Sun Qing Hua didn’t explicitly state his purpose for bustling about, when he returned to Xin Lan Yuan, Sun Ru Yi, who had just suffered a crushing defeat, had already exposed him.
When people from Old Madam’s place came to pass on the message, she understood what was going on, so she figured it wasn’t necessary to dress up elaborately.
At Xiwu Hall, Old Madam sat on the main seat, Sun Qing Hua and Song-shi, and Sun Qing Bin and Huang-shi accompanied by the lower side.
Sun Qing Bin and Huang-shi came uninvited, but Old Madam couldn’t easily drive them away, so she had no other choice but to let them stay.
The family, all plastered with smiles on their faces, scrutinized the girls as they filed in from the outside.
On the surface, it appeared as though Old Madam recruited all the misses in her family for her upcoming birthday. However, on one side of the room, behind a screen embroidered with sandalwood flowers of the four seasons, there were two people, one sitting and the other standing, who weren’t visible from the outside.
But they all seemed to know who was hidden in that particular spot, so all the misses who just entered showcased their best side, either intentionally or unintentionally.
As Old Madam and the misses below were chatting, Zhou mama had stealthily sneaked behind the screen.
Zong Yue seemed to have become very impatient as he kept turning the ring on his thumb, so De Wang’s tone was particularly bad: “Can’t you do anything right?”
“This servant will go tell the master.”
Zhou mama shuttled over to Old Madam and murmured something to Old Madam’s ear.
Old Madam didn’t falter: “Tell the eldest branch to go and call the two remaining concubine-born daughters. That’s right, and the biao miss.”
Soon, the remaining three were here, but De Wang still said no.
Now, Old Madam had a headache. All the age-appropriate daughters in the house were here, but they still weren’t who they were looking for, so who could it be?
“Old Madam, could it be the Fourth Young Madam?” Zhou mama guessed.
“The Second Master said she could sing a folk tune.”
“But none of the girls know how to sing a folk tune, and if they are of age and are dressed as a young lady3, other than Fourth Young Madam, I really can’t think of anyone else in the house.”
“Go and call Fang-shi here.”
By this time, Old Madam was extremely impatient. On one hand, she wanted to chat with the granddaughters below, on the other, she was afraid that the noble person behind the screen would be annoyed, so she really couldn’t move either right or left.
Soon, Fang Feng Sheng was invited.
Zhou mama quietly slipped behind the screen again.
Zhou mama returned to Old Madam in near desperation.
Whispering as usual, Old Madam’s face was still hung with a kind smile, but her eyebrows already wrinkled.
She rubbed her forehead and declared, “Alright, I’ll leave this to Song-shi to handle. You all retire, this old woman’s body just recuperated but is now tired.”
“Yes, Mother.” Song-shi replied.
“Right, Second Master stays. I have something to tell you.”
“Mother, what is there to say that you can’t let me and the eldest hear too?” Huang-shi asked with a smile.
Old Madam stared at Huang-shi and said, “It’s nothing, just some trivial matters I remembered. Do you want to hear?”
Huang-shi, smile still in place, answered, “This daughter-in-law and the eldest also want to relieve Mother’s worries.”
“You can stay if you want to hear it.”
Old Madam was obviously a little upset, but there were people behind the screen, so she couldn’t say anything to their faces. But Huang-shi was like a blind woman, pretending she didn’t see and relied firmly on Sun Qing Bin.
“Feng Sheng, you also stay. I’ll talk to you regarding matters about the scriptures.”
Old Madam tried to conceal it, but many people had been enlightened and were a bit incredulous, their eyes even continuously shifting from Old Madam to Fang Feng Sheng.
When everyone else had retired, the hall finally quieted down.
Old Madam called Feng Sheng to her side, patted her hand, and expressed some words of dismay.
It was unclear whether or not Feng Sheng understood her words, but she held her head down regardless.
“Alright, Grandmother is not going to cover it up anymore. I’m sure you’ve already met the third prince. Feng Sheng, now that His Highness has requested us to ask you to go, are you willing?”
In the hall, everyone’s eyes were gathered on Fang Feng Sheng’s body.
Although Sun Qing Hua and Song-shi were a bit surprised, Old Madam never did anything that she was unsure of, and since she pointed it out in their presence, she must be sure of it. Could it be that Old Madam had exchanged greetings with Fang Feng Sheng in advance? Or was it Old Madam who arranged for the third prince to come out to demand for her in person?
Sun Qing Hua had too many questions in his mind, but now wasn’t the time to say anything, and out of trust in Old Madam, he drank his tea with his eyebrows half-lowered as if nothing had transpired.
“The third prince?”
Old Madam smiled kindly and stroked her hand again, “It’s a blessing that the third prince fancies you. Are you willing?”
“Where is the third prince?”
Zong Yue strode out from behind the screen: “This master has already promised you yesterday, now it’s done, you……”
“The third prince?” Feng Sheng’s pitch suddenly rose and became very sharp, and she looked at Old Madam, Sun Qing Hua, and Huang-shi in dread, “Grandmother, are you, father, and mother planning to sell your daughter-in-law for glory?”
A single sentence, like a stone thrown to startle the sky, stirred up countless waves.
Without waiting for them to speak, Feng Sheng staggered back a few steps and added, “I only thought you all just didn’t like me, but I never thought you all would do such a thing! Father, you are a court official and have read the sage’s books. Does what you read teach you to use your daughter-in-law to climb the ranks of the powerful?”
“And the third prince.”
Feng Sheng slowly paced in front of Zong Yue and looked at him without evading, “Are you really a prince? This ordinary woman wonders if it’s fake. As a magnificent prince, you should uphold His Majesty’s benevolence and love for the people as his son. But how can you, a dignified prince, shamelessly attempt to seize a subject’s wife and, to achieve your own goals, use your wealth and power to buy off this group of profit-minded people, and even team up to put on such a show just to coerce a weak woman to yield to power?”
“Fang-shi, what do you want to do? Just shut up!” Sun Qing Hua was furious.
Old Madam was also apprehensive, “Fang-shi, do you know what you’re talking about? Do you want to overturn the heavens?!”
Huang-shi and Sun Qing Bin looked at each other and sat back to watch the show.
“Why did you tell me to shut up? Since you dared to do it, why are you afraid of being exposed?”
Feng Sheng sneered and continued, “If the Third Prince wants to see this ordinary woman accept on her knees with a happy smile, then I’m sorry, I can’t do it! Even though this ordinary one is a woman, this one grew up with the grace of one’s parents and the wisdom of the sages. This one knows what it means to be courteous, righteous, honest, and shameless, and what it means to be kind but not to be robbed, to be close but not to be forced, and to be killed but not to be insulted.4 If the third prince insists on doing it, the only thing he will see is this ordinary woman’s corpse.”
Don’t you all want to see the heavens overturn?
I’ll show you!
I’ve seen comments questioning why Fang Feng Sheng is dressed as a maiden, and how married women dress differently than unmarried women, and how that created this misunderstanding. There will be an explanation later.
1 冒青烟: Apparently according to Baidu, “emitting green smoke” is from a famous Han poem, referring to something auspicious or someone becoming an important official (in this case, the auspicious occasion is his daughter being accepted as the prince’s concubine), but it’s also a way to ridicule/mock and curse/scold a person. Something like, a person gets promoted, but later on he gets dismissed, one could say that his ancestral grave emitted green smoke or something…
2 I just wanted to expound on this. You know how in ancient China, in noble families, or in the imperial family in particular, their concubines follow a ranking system. The prince can have one 王妃 (wángfēi) princess consort, two 侧妃 (cèfēi) side consorts, and countless other concubines (both with and without a title). A side consort is only one rank lower than the princess consort and can be recorded in the household’s genealogy records, unlike other concubines. Essentially still a concubine, but with a title and more benefits. If the princess consort dies/divorces, the prince could elevate a side consort as his main wife or marry a new main wife/wangfei.
3 姑娘 (gū niang): young lady, young woman, girl, miss, etc. This is how people address unmarried young ladies. In this context, I translated it as young lady to emphasize that they were unmarried. But to address the daughters of the family, I translated it as ‘miss’. As to why Zhi Chun and He mama still call Feng Sheng ‘miss’ despite being married, it’s probably because she hasn’t consummated her marriage yet and because of the author’s explanation on the next chapter (as she promised above)…. or maybe because they’ve been with her since she was young and they’d gotten used to it.
4 Taken from the Book of Rites. 礼义廉耻 (lǐ yì lián chǐ): sense of propriety, justice, integrity and honor (i.e. the four social bonds, 四維)