Chapter 26: (Duan Wu) Dragon Boat Festival
Translated by Gumihou
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“Madam, this hairpin is really beautiful, this concubine has never seen it before. Did the master just gifted this to you?”
Said Concubine Jiang with a smile as she gazed up at the beautifully decked out Xu Ran Yun admiring herself in front of the mirror
As expected, this praise reached Xu Ran Yun’s heart, who smiled and said. “That’s right, the day before yesterday he brought this for me, saying that since it’s the Dragon Boat Festival, he wanted me to wear it. Of course it’s beautiful, however the value is not just in beauty alone, just take a look these layers of gold flowers. The price of gold alone is one thing, the craftsmanship, the painstaking effort that went into this piece, do you think we could ever attach a normal price on this hair pin?
“As expected, the gold flowers are nothing more than just skilful craftsmanship, the most precious item is at the centre of the pin is this exquisite pearl. So large and smooth, one probably can’t get it without at least 100 liang.” Seeing Xu Ran Yun so happy, she naturally increased her effort to please her. Suddenly, servants called from outside the room, saying that the two young masters had already packed up and was requesting for further instructions. “Madam, should we leave now? old madam always likes to have lots of people around, it would be bad if we are late.”
Xu Ran Yun nodded, and left with Concubine Jiang, seeing that both Duan Mao Ming and Duan Mao Chuan were both properly tidied up, she deliberately looked around all four corners of the courtyard, only after seeing that everything, including the guards, peach trees and everything else were in their proper place that she gathered her female servants together and set out for the North Court where the old madam lived.
Coincidentally, they encountered Xue Zi Lan bringing her own two sons, Duan Mao Fan and Duan Mao Sen, with the beautiful Concubine Jing by her side. Having the two beauties standing next to each other, one as gorgeous as peaches and plums, the other as refined as an exquisite orchid, certainly created a scene that was both pleasing to the eye and the mind.
Xu Ran Yun was actually quite a pretty herself, but before this pair of outstanding elegance and beauty she felt a sense of inferiority. Envy and hatred grew in her heart, but her smile remained on her face. “Oh, why did I not see little sister Yu?
Xue Zi Lan’s smile was shy and gentle, as she said in quiet voice. “This past two days her body is not too well, she may catch cold, I have bade the wet nurse take care of her and not let her leave the house. Speaking of which, where is sister Qin? Why is she not here? Is she sick as well?”
“No, no, it’s possible that she had kicked off her blanket last night and gotten cold, and is now suffering from a little runny tummy.”
As the two chatted lightly together, walking side by side, shoulders almost bumping into each other, both secretly analysing each other’s clothing and accessories, calculating the amount of affection each received. Duan Tingxuan was actually quite fair, every one of his wives and concubines all received one exquisite accessory each. Each of the accessory also had its own special features, the Phoenix pin on Xue Zi Lan’s head was a little inferior compared to the Gold Flower pin on Xu Ran Yun’s head. The Jasper pin on Concubine Jing’s head could not be compared in terms of value against the ones owned by the two wives, however it could be said that the pattern chosen suited her free and quiet temperament much better.
He really was a vary lusty one.
This was all women’s opinion when it came to Duan Tingxuan, naturally it was nothing complimentary. And yet, now that he was their husband, it was only natural for the women to publicly or secretly fight each other for favour. Unable to monopolize his affections, they could only grit their teeth and curse in secret while assuming an air of harmonious relationship. At the same time using flowery words to discreetly put down others while making themselves look better in the eyes of important people.
When they reached the old lady’s courtyard, they saw that Elder Madam Yang was already there. Seated next to her was the middle age Madam Mei, Old Marquis Duan’s second wife. Her name was Liu Min. She was also the Old Marquis Duan’s younger cousin. The family addressed her as Min Tai Tai.
Unlike his scoundrel of a son, the Old Marquis’s heart belonged only to this younger cousin, therefore relationship between himself and the official wife was extremely weak. This was actually the main reason why Elder Madam Yang was afraid that Duan Tingxuan’s heir status would be taken away from him. However, at present, it looked like Duan Tingxuan’s strong political savvy and imperial connections were fairly stable, therefore the second young master Duan could only hide his desire to be the heir in the deepest depths of his heart.
Right now, this person and his wife, surname Shi were sitting together with the old madam, saying nice things to her. Below Min Tai Tai was a timid looking woman. This was Concubine Lin, she was a bed companion gift from old madam for the Old Marquis, she had given birth to a son and a daughter. Both inherited her weak and timid temper, and were now standing behind their mother with their heads bowed, not saying a word.
When Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zi Lan arrived, the atmosphere immediately became even more lively. The ladies chatted for a bit, each eyeing the sky, finally old madam creased her brows and said. “Why is Xuan’er not finished with court yet? Today is the Dragon Boat Festival, even the government office is closed for the day. Could he possibly be busier than them?”
Duan Tingye’s eyes swept the room and grew just a little dimmer, when in fact there’s a hidden flash within. At this point, surname Shi said with a smile. “I’m sure that older brother will be here soon. He had always been the most obedient one to old madam since old madam cares for him most. Please be at ease, I’m sure he will come no matter what on such an important festival day. No matter what important matter he is busy with, there is no way that anything would be more important than old madam. I’m sure he will be here soon.”
Madam Yang , Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zi Lan all gave this evil hearted woman a glare. Madam Yang turned to the two daughter-in-laws and asked. “Did Xuan’er say if there’s anything the matter today?”
Xue Zi Lan and Xu Ran Yun shook their heads together, they both look towards Concubine Jing and Concubine Jiang. Seeing their blank looks, Xu Ran Yun frowned and said in a low voice, “Just what is going on? Did the master rested at a bed companion’s place?”
Servants who served as bed companions do not have their own courtyard, unlike the four of them, so if Duan Tingxuan really did sleep in a bed companion’s room, none of the four would know. However, at this moment, after some quick flashing of eyes to exchange information, Xu Ran Yun found that she had guessed wrong again.
“What’s the meaning of this? Does this mean that the master did not rest at our place? If so, where did he go?” If she was not worried about giving a bad impression, Xu Ran Yun would have screamed out loud. Though Duan Tingxuan was a lusty sort, he did not have a tendency to visit whore houses since he had a private nest of beautiful women in his own home. Therefore the fact that he did not come at night made them worried.
Xu Ran Yun and Xue Zi Lan’s faces became unpleasant as they worry over this. Naturally, this exchange did not escape the eyes of Liu Min or Duan Tingye husband and wife pair, surname Shi immediately took the opportunity to smile and said. “What happened? Could it be that elder brother did not return home last night? This is quite unusual, did he not bother to send any messages to you? It’s just too irresponsible of him to worry sisters-in-law so.”
“Enough, the less said the better, is your elder brother’s business something you should interfere?” Liu Min mildly scolded her with eyes filled with glee, she turned towards Madam Yang with a heartfelt expression on her face. “But, returning to the previous topic, it seems that that matters within Jing Cheng is not good. Xuan’er has always operates under his own ideas and kept his nose clean all these years, never failing to live up to expectations. Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who wish to drag others down to their level. Since he’s the type who likes to make friends, it would be too bad if he he ended up hanging out with the wrong sort Sister you should control him a bit more, no matter how mature he seems, he still a child, a youngster.”
“Thank you for second mother’s concern, as a royal official, every word and deed I make represents the imperial court, thus I dare not make friends rashly. Second mother must be really worried about this, and have kept a very close eye on second brother. Since this is so, you might have noticed that second brother has managed this mansion quite well, yet you still will not allow him to make contacts outside? Second mother should not control him too much, no matter how young you may think he is, he’s a twenty year old man, not a child any more.”
From the entrance came a clear and mellow voice that was pleasing to the ear. Following this voice, Duan Tingxuan came through the door, with him were Si Ping, Shuang Xi, Hong Lian and Xiang Yun, each carrying a food box.
“Where have you been?” The old madam, at the sight of her favourite grandson ignored the unpleasant face of Liu Min, Duan Tingye and surname Shi, still who was still sitting next to her. She quickly beckoned him to come over. Duan Tingxuan only smiled and said. “It is the Dragon Boat Festival and the weather is getting hotter. Old madam had always disliked the heat since it saps the energy. Thus, this grandson have especially brought some delicious and nutritious soup for you.”
“Oh? So you have a surprise for me?” old madam felt very happy, she nodded her head and continued. “This old lady is certainly happy with your good intention. This year has been especially hot, there’s nothing I wish to eat.”
Duan Tingxuan quickly smiled and said. “Oh no, whether this is a good or bad thing we don’t know yet. I spent some effort on this little thing, but you must promise to be honest in your opinion and punish me if you don’t like it.”
Xu Ran Yun seeing her husband said this, quickly chipped in, saying with a smile. “Since it’s master’s good intention, old madam you must try some. Regardless whether it tasted good or bad, if you say it’s bad, wouldn’t master accept your punishment? These days you’ve been admiring that Dragon Phoenix jade plate of his, let him use that to appease you.”
The old madam became even more happy, she playfully cursed. “Pei! Since you’ve already said this, what can I do? How could this old thing covet a grandson’s belongings? Everyone will think I have nothing to do but think up schemes to take his valuables.”
Xu Ran Yun continued to smile. “Old madam, there’s no need to say this. Isn’t this part of the master’s filial duties?” Having said this she looked up at the sky and said to Madam Yang. “Madam, seeing it’s already midday, and the kitchen has already prepared everything, shall we all eat?”
Madam Yang nodded with as smile. “As you said, tell the servants to prepare.” Having said this she turned to the maid beside her to call the elder master to dinner, but heard the old madam saying. “No need, your elder master prefer peace and quiet. He’s probably at the temple playing chess with old Taoist priests and won’t be back yet. No need to look for him, later when he’s back, tell him to see me for a little supper later.”
Madam Yang quickly acquiesce. Xu Ran Yun, surname Shi and others started ordering people to rearrange the tables and chairs. An instant later, a dozen maids entered in a single file, carrying trays of food the cooks had meticulously prepared. The old madam suddenly thought of something, she turned towards Duan Tingxuan and said. “Oh yes, the empress’ Dragon Boat Festival gifts have already arrived this morning. Your portion of the reward had been sent to your room, I think Yun’er kept it for you. You take a look at my portion of the reward and take whatever you like as thanks for this filial intention gift.”