Chapter 65: Perfume & Make-Up
Translated by Gumihou
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“Isn’t that the maids’ job? If you don’t give them work they will become terrified and wonder whether you’re somehow dissatisfied with them. Wait, are you playing some kind of mind games with them? They’ll be terrified and think you plan to throw them out you know, there’s really no need to mess with them like this.”
“What nonsense are you talking about? I tell you now, we do things differently here at Chun Feng Court. Don’t compare our relationship with your usual master and servant arrangements.” With a chattering Duan Tingxuan on one side and a persistent Zhao Cai pawing for attention on the other, Su Nuan Nuan helplessly gave up on sleep. When Zhao Cai leapt onto her lap the third time, she reluctantly sat up and pet its fur properly.
Duan Tingxuan looked at this scene with amusement. He came over to sit next to Su Nuan Nuan and sighed loudly at her wary glare. “Can’t I touch your cat now? There’s no need to look at me like that, it’s not like you’ll lose anything if I touch your precious pet.” Then, he reached over and began to run his hand down Zhao Cai’s sleek and supple fur.
Zhao Cai’s eyes narrowed with pleasure as both masters gave their full attention. In the silence, punctuated only by purrs, Duan Tingxuan finally noticed the unusual quiet. He said, “Speaking of which, you don’t have many servant girls here. Aside from Hong Lian, Xiang Yun, Hua’er and Cong’er, there are only 11 others, is it really enough? Moreover, don’t you need helpers with your food research? Leaving Zhi Lan and Ran Yun aside, even Jing and Ping have at least four personal maids each. As my official wife, how could you have the same number of personal maids as the concubines? What would people say?”
“Just see it as me helping you save money, alright?” Su Nuan Nuan rolled her eyes. However, she knew that Duan Tingxuan was right. Though she was a spirit from the modern world and hated the restricted and unnecessarily luxurious life of a feudal noble, she knew that she had to do as Romans do. Or, in this case, do as the official wife of a noble lord do.
After a short paused, she continued stiffly, “There’s no need for you to remind me all this. Whatever, I have enough maids here for now, if I need more in the future I’ll just get more later.”
Duan Tingxuan only nodded at her words, he did not bother to press her further. He switched attention to the cat, admiring its black and white colouring. He smiled, “Don’t you think this cat looked like one of those milking cows? Do you think it’s some kind of special crossbreed?”
“What nonsense are you saying now?” Su Nuan Nuan said crossly. “If you have nothing good to say just keep quiet. This is a purebred cat of our great country. Look how gorgeous his fur is, could a milking cow ever be so beautiful?”
She was still speaking when they heard Cong’er’s bright voice, “Second Miss, you’re here? Ah, you’re so pretty today, looks like the sewing house did an excellent job with your clothes. It fits you really well.”
Duan Xinqu’s voice was quiet, “As you say, even my mother could not help but praise it. As I am indebted to madam for the materials, I have come to present myself to her. May I know if she’s at home?”
“Oh yes, and so is my master.”
The curtain lifted, revealing Cong’er and a hesitant Duan Xinqu. Su Nuan Nuan’s cheerful voice called out, “Second sister, you’re here with your new clothes? Come, let us have a look.”
Duan Xinqu finally came in, her steps as cautious as a frightened animal. In her heart, she lamented: Brother, in the past it’s rare to see you visit elder sister-in-law even once a month, why are you always here now? Have you nothing better to do?
The moment she stepped into the room, Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan saw a girl dressed in an eye catching sakura pink jacket, with a little trail of embroidered sakura flowers flowing along the neckline. The actual dress was pale green, with sakura petals scattered tastefully down the skirt. It really enhances her fresh and youthful look. Duan Xinqu was naturally beautiful, when dressed appropriately, one could see her potential to become a great beauty, a diamond of the first water.
Duan Tingxuan looked upon this normally shy and unassuming sister of his with some surprise. This little marquis was no stranger to great beauty and for him to have never notice his own sister’s looks was… well, perfectly normal of course, but still, one would have thought that he of all people would have noticed his sister’s potential beauty, in a perfectly platonic brotherly way of course.
Just then, Hong Lian, Xiang Yun and Hua’er arrived, Su Nuan Nuan pulled Duan Xinqu closer and looked her up and down. She smiled and said, “I’m right, you certainly have some very good foundation, this dress certainly fits you well. Don’t our second young miss look beautiful when properly made up?”
Duan Xinqu’s little face flushed brightly. No one had ever praised her like this in her life, happy and a bit anxious, she whispered, “Would sister-in-law please don’t tease me anymore, how could I be more beautiful than you?”
“While I certainly am beautiful, we both possessed a different kind of beauty. We each have our own good points.” Su Nuan Nuan chuckled gently as she dropped her voice. When she saw Duan Tingxuan standing aside, lips curling, she sniffed and put her hands on her waist, “Well? Does my Lord disagreed with something I said?”
“How could I dare? Madam wife is correct, you are both diamonds of the first water…”
The little marquis really hadn’t expect Su Nuan Nuan to pay attention to him, he immediately smiled ingratiatingly at her, flattery dancing on his tongue. Without waiting for him to continue, Su Nuan Nuan cut in, “Is there any need to say those things? My little sister has youth and freshness on her side, but I, heh! Next to Madam Lan and Concubine Jing, I am an only aspire to be ordinary, who would waste the word ‘beauty’ on the likes of me?”
“Really, my madam wife is a true beauty. However, these are words that should be said by us. It’s called blowing your own trumpet if you call yourself a beauty.” Duan Tingxuan leaned forward to touched her nose, the maids all giggled at his playfulness, even Duan Xinqu couldn’t suppress her amusement. Embarrassed, Su Nuan Nuan cast around for something to talk about and seized upon Duan Xinqu again. “Wu! Little sister, your face! Your make up is too thick. You’re at the age where the bloom beauty is the freshest, just the lightest touch of make-up should be fine. Right now you looked like you’ve been dropped into a jar of white paint.”
Duan Xinqu’s face flushed red, she said in a small voice, “I too feel that the make-up was a bit thick, but it can’t be helped. The good rouge from the capital is just too expensive.
Duan Tingxuan frowned, Su Nuan Nuan was also perfectly aware of the situation, but neither of the couple said anything. Instead, Su Nuan Nuan waved Hong Lian over, and smiled at Duan Xinqu, “Now that little sister is dressed so nicely, we should properly complete the look. Look through some of my stuff, the ones your master gave me. I have no idea what those things cost, but bring some of the good stuff over.”
As she spoke, she pulled Duan Xinqu by her wrist into her rooms. With nothing else to do, Duan Tingxuan made his way out of the mansion and began to make a small circuit around the gardens. He was deep in his thoughts when voices floated over from main entrance, cheerful as a set of ringing bells. “Oh, master is at first madam’s place. What good timing, the old madam had just woken up from her afternoon nap. She was feeling a little bored and bade us to invite first madam over. Perhaps master would like to come over with madam?”
Duan Tingxuan laughed, “ I have already sent my greetings to grandmother earlier and won’t be joining everyone. I was about to go to the study anyway.” So saying, he bade Cong’er over and informed her to inform Su Nuan Nuan, and left Chun Feng Court for his study.
 The concubines – it’s prefixed with ‘Ah’, as in Ah Ping and Ah Jing, but it sounds too cute? So I left it out, apparently, the lower your social status, the more childish your name becomes.