Chapter 66: Storm in the Study
Translated by Gumihou
Please read this at kitchennovel dot com
Within the study, Shuang Xi and Si Ping were dozing in chairs, doing their best to flight off sleep. It was personal maid Cai Yun, who had been dusting and putting the bookshelf in order, who saw their master first. Surprised, she ran up to greet him and said, “Did master not say that you’ll be spending the day at Chun Feng Court? You’ve also declined Madam Lan and Madam Yun’s invitation to admire the flowers, so why…? This maid have not prepared any snacks, even if we have any prepared, how could it be compared to anything from Chun Feng Court?”
Si Ping and Shuang Xi were both astonished, when Duan Tingxuan caught sight of them he suddenly asked, “Who is in charge of the stock purchase for the mansion?”
Just why was this master asking all this all of a sudden? Though he did not know what was going on, Si Ping answered carefully, “In answer to master’s question, it’s been a long time since the elder madam and Madam Min handled the finances. The financial matters long since been handed over to second madam and Madam Yun. May this one know what stock master is asking after?”
“Perfumes and make-ups.”
Duan Tingxuan got to the point immediately. It’s not like he’s being petty over small expenses like lady’s perfumes and powders, however, as a wily fox himself, how could he not know the idiom ‘Clear water did not lack fish’? The face powder on Duan Xinqu looked rough and clumpy, almost like wall plaster. It was white, but rather than a white that enhances a young girl’s face. Even the brothel ladies would not deign to use this kind of powder, not without extra rouge for the cheeks, definitely not something that should be bought by a marquis house. Whoever was in charge of the stock purchases clearly did not respect the masters of the house at all, Duan Tingxuan have no tolerance for people who planned to fool him like this.
“Make-up and perfume, should be under second madam’s responsibility.” Si Ping said, carefully studying his master’s expression. Was master suffering from some kind of sickness? Developing a strange hobby? Or, was he going to use this opportunity to reduce second madam’s power within the mansion?
“So, she’s the one?” a slight frown creased Duan Tingxuan’s brows, this was a bit tricky. Though it did not look like much from the surface, it was still a scam. The problem now was how to resolve the matter without treading on his brother and sister-in-law’s faces? Moreover, aside from Duan Xinqu, he hadn’t seen this kind of powder on anyone else’s face. If there was another reason behind this action, would he look a fool if he blew the whole thing up. His parents, especially his father, would just think that he’s being too frivolous.
All of this flashed through his mind at once. He turned to Si Ping, “You’re a sharp one, go and do some investigation for your master, find out who’s buying up these trash goods those make-things are…”
Before he could finish, Cai Yun chimed up, “Surely there’s no need for master to send Si Ping out for this? This maid knows about it. The people behind the purchase of make-up items are a greedy lot. With second master’s backing, they do provide the required number of goods, but padded up the amount using low quality powders and things.”
“It’s that uncontrolled?” it was Duan Tingxuan’s turn to be surprised. “Then why are the make-up on your faces still fine?”
Cai Yun smiled cheerfully, “Just who are the people master have seen? Madam Lan and Madam Yun? Or the maids at their place? Naturally their faces would be fine, the agents knew whose face they had take care off. How could they dare to mess around with Madam Lan or Madam Yun? Madam Lan aside, Madam Yun was not someone who would just take things laying down. Once she digs her claws in them, they would not die an easy death, how could they risk their profits this way?”
“Aside from those maids, the ones directly serving the elder madams and above were all provided with good quality products, those who served in the background were not so fortunate, even I am allotted low quality products. However, how could this maid complain to master about make-ups of all things? How much could master look after anyway? And, could this really be considered a real problem? This maid is not someone who doesn’t understand the world. My salary is two silvers a month, and I buy my own make-up. Most of the maids, whether in large or small positions, did the same. If master had not bring it up, this maid would never dream of speaking out.”
Duan Tingxuan’s expression grew ugly. After a while, he said, “Even the maids have money to buy better face products, so why is second miss still using those low quality face powder?”
“Second miss?” Cai Yun was hit by a sudden realization. She thought, so, this was why their master, who had never cared about these kinds of things before was suddenly asking so many questions. The tea was done brewing, so she carried over the tea tray and poured Duan Tingxuan a cup, saying, “Second miss and Concubine Lin… please don’t think of this maid as a tattler, but, this one do believe that master knows. Has anyone in this house ever treat them as a significant members of the family? Any money they received, well, Concubine Lin still have two financially dependent brothers on her maiden family’s side…”
“This maid also heard that both third young master and second miss’ monthly allowances all went to Concubine Lin. Therefore, how could they have money for frivolous things like make-up? Also, don’t look down on something as simple as make-up, there could be all kinds hidden connections to it. If this maid could venture a suggestion, it would be best for master to not show his hand in this matter first, though Concubine Lin and second miss’ situation is pitiful, it’s better to just keep an eye on the situation for now.”
Though she felt that her words were sound, Duan Tingxuan was still the heir, who was she to advice someone like him? Moreover, was there really a need to watch the situation at all? The only reason why Cai Yun spoke up at all was because she knew that Madam Yang was heartsick over the fact that Liu Min was the lord marquis’ true love and, though she did not look at Concubine Lin as her competition, elder madam would naturally be upset if she knew that her son had gone to the aid of those ladies. Cai Yun was sure that her master would see reason and did not try to persuade him further.
Duan Tingxuan remained silent for some time, thinking deeply to himself. Finally, he looked up and said to Cai Yun, “Who is normally in charge of my small warehouse?”
“Naturally, it would be Madam Yun, the financial matters of the heir’s family are all taken care of by Madam Yun.” Cai Yun said with a smile, even as she wondered what her master was thinking. When he finally spoke up again, Duan Tingxuan’s voice was resolute, “Tomorrow, you go over to Ran Yun, tell her you’re there under my command. Instruct her to hand over the warehouse keys. From tomorrow onwards, your first madam will take over responsibility of the warehouse.”
Not only Cai Yun, even Si Ping and Shuang Xi were shocked. To the point that they all cried out in unison. Duan Tingxuan’s ‘small warehouse’ was only small in name, the treasure within it could rivalled the entire coffers of the main house. Even the second master, the one in charge of the overall financial and business ventures for the family, was not as wealthy as the heir.
More importantly, Duan Tingxuan would naturally want to have the most trusted person to look after this treasury of his. Even during the early days when first madam married into the family, the master had not given the keys over to her. Madam Yun had served him for over three years before she was allowed to manage some smaller chores before finally she was finally given the keys to this warehouse. To her credit, Madam Yun had never abused her privilege, never tried to steal or pilfer anything within the treasury. Therefore, the moment first madam was cast out to Mei Yue Lou, she naturally stepped in to take control of the inner court’s finances of the entire mansion.
As she considered this, Cai Yun could not help herself as she said, “Master, this… surely this is too rash? Madam Yun has done nothing wrong, and did a good job looking after the warehouse as well as the overall finances of the main family. For master to suddenly hand the keys over to first madam, surely Madam Yun will be very disappointed, ah?”
“I have my views on this matter, and will speak to Ran Yun about them. You just make sure to get the keys for your first madam.”
After that, Duan Tingxuan dismissed all three servants. He went over to his bookshelf and selected one specific volume, looking perfectly at ease with life.
… please read this at kitchennovel.com …
“Madam Lan, Madam Yun is here.”
Long Yan called in from outside, however, the moment she stepped closer to Madam Lan, she lowered her voice, “Madam Yun’s expression did not look good today.”
Xue Zhi Lan smiled slightly, and said in a mild voice. “It’s rare for her to look cheerful, it’s fine. I shall welcome her personally, I don’t plan to provoke her today.” As soon as she said this, she stood up gracefully and made her way to the living room. A smile reminiscence of a gentle spring breeze wreathed her face, “What wind have blown dear sister to my place today?”
Xu Ran Yun forced a smile and said coldly, “I was feeling cooped up in the house, and decided to visit you for a bit. Well? Are you in the middle of sewing?” her eyes cast over to Xue Zhi Lan’s fingers where a silver thimble sat.
“Oh yes, we’re nearing the hottest season of the year, and I wish to make some light house cloths for our lord. It is kind of elder sister to visit me, have you also been making clothes? I do believe Concubine Jiang is a deft hand at making clothes.” Xue Zhi Lan had been leading Xu Ran Yun into the house as she spoke, waving a hand to bade one of the maids to prepare the good tea.
She was unsurprised to see Xu Ran Yun turned back and glared at her with red eyes, and said, “What’s the use of wasting your energy this way? Right now the only one in our lord has eyes for that person in Chun Feng Court. What house clothes? Even if you manage to make a cloak out of dragon hide for him, he’ll probably won’t even look at you.”
Xue Zhi Lan’s lips pouted into a smile, “Dear sister, there’s no need to speak like that. I know that first madam brought the second miss to old madam’s place and spent the day praising her to high heavens. Even elder madam said she had changed a lot, she’s now much more kind hearted. Only, though there are plenty of people of who would praise her, there were probably quite a lot who thought otherwise. Elder madam is wise, she shouldn’t be so easily taken in.”
Xu Ran Yu laughed coldly, “Do you actually believe the words you said? Hehe! That’s right, you’ve always been gentle and soft spoken in front of elder madam, which is why she likes you. With the elder madam on first madam’s side, calling her kind hearted and whatever, well, how does it feel like to lose such a major support, eh? Without the lord’s love and protection, what are you? How long do you think we can depend on elder madam’s protection? A lifetime?”
Xue Zhi Lan was unsettled by these words, she said uncertainly, “What’s that about the lord? While it’s true that the lord likes to visit Chun Feng Court, isn’t it just for the first madam’s cooking? Even the old madam couldn’t resist it, the lord marquis and elder madam also like it very much.”
“That’s not all. You know that the lord visited my place last night, he told me… he said that… now that she’s back in the inner court. He didn’t want her to have nothing to do. As she expressed no interest in the running of the main house, he plans to give her the keys to his warehouse. The reason he gave was… was that the care of the storeroom was something that wouldn’t stress her out, and that he trusts that she would be able to make full use of whatever money and things she finds in the warehouse.”
“The lord even said that this woman was able to take care of some things that he had never noticed before. I wished I had just bang my head against the wall and die in front of him when he said that. I ask you, who was the one who had been taking care of the main house all this while? I dare not slip even once, it’s been years, but have I ever touched a single thing within the warehouse? I may have used some of the allotted money to do business, but in the end all income came back to the Duan house. How could the lord treat me like this? And what’s all this talk about ‘making full use’ of the warehouse? The lord treated me as though I’m useless for not being able to make full use of his resources.”
Speech done, she burst into tears.
[Gumihou: I feel kind of sorry for Xu Ran Yun…]