Chapter 74: First Madam has Arrived
Translated by Gumihou
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Nearly half a day had passed before Hong Lian came rushing in. The middle aged physician behind her stayed in the yard, respectful of the large house rules.
“Missy, Physician Mei from the capital is here. Housekeeper Lin said that he’s the best when it comes to healing injuries and sent people out to fetch him when I told him of our dilemma.”
“Good, bring him in quickly.” Su Nuan Nuan got up to gently placed Zhao Chai on the bench.
Hong Lian straightened from her bob and rushed out to invite Physician Mei in. Seeing the capital’s most famous physician, one that was often seen entering and leaving aristocratic houses, all kinds of complicated feelings brimmed in her heart.
Not long ago she had gone around the mansion, begging the marquis, the elder madam, servants, anyone she could think of to get a physician for her dying mistress and was ignored by everyone. In the end, a young boy servant took pity on her and managed to get hold of a half competent physician in to see her. At her most disheartened state, her mistress had undergone a complete personality change, managing to even snatch her life back from the brink of death. In fact, their good days started from that moment onwards. To see the capital’s most famous physician being called in to look at their injured cat was… well, one really can’t predict how one’s life would change in the future.
“This cat has great tenacity.”
Physician Mei muttered after taking a look at Zhao Chai’s injuries. He skilfully wrapped up Zhao Chai’s wounds and instructed them not to give him too many good things to eat and to feed him plain porridge while he recuperates. Xiang Yun made a mulish face and objected, “He’s already so badly injured, are we supposed to starve him on top of that?”
Physician Mei stroked Zhao Chai and gave a little he-he laugh, “This cat is nice and fat, so it will be fine. Moreover, we’re not actually starving him, you can still give him some thin rice porridge. However, cats are greedy things who can’t control themselves. It’s up to us as their masters to make sure they keep to their diet. Madam, you might actually have to bind up his mouth to make sure he doesn’t gorge himself on good food.”
Su Nuan Nuan laughed at the physician’s remark, she nodded agreeably and said, “Looks like you are a lover of cats too, you sure know a lot about their behaviour.”
Physician Mei laughed heartily and said, “I have three in my home, they are my precious treasures.” He wrote down a prescription for them and prepared the medicine himself, and adding it to some thin rice and fish porridge. The maids watched with wide eyes and tsked, “Look how human like this cat is, even the medicine is prepared the same way.”
Physician Mei, who was a rather good tempered person, turned to say, “Naturally, though cats and humans are different creatures, a cat is about five-sixth similar to a human. What benefits us should benefit them too. Though I must say, he’s lucky to have escaped without any heavy injuries, he should still rest and take medicine to heal his internal injuries. The only major problem when it came to healing cats is the feeding of medicine. This one have no problem now he’s weak, but the rest would depend on Madam’s skills.”
Su Nuan Nuan accepted the prescript solemnly, handed it to Cong’er and said, “Go to the main court and fetch one of the more dependable boys here. Get him to go back with Physician Mei to pick up this prescription.”
After some acupuncture treatments Physician Mei took his leave. Su Nuan Nuan lightly stroked Zhao Chai until the occasional ‘Miwoo’ stopped before she stood up. “Hua’er, you and Cong’er stay here and look after Zhao Chai. Hong Lian, Xiang Yun, let’s go.”
Hong Lian looked at her mistress’ deceptively calm face and knew that she was about to take action for Zhao Chai’s sake. It looked like her earlier advice had fallen on deaf ears, she let out one last desperate warning call and watched as Su Nuan Nuan turned around and said fiercely, “I was wrong. I had believed that as long as I showed these people goodwill they would leave us alone. Instead, they spat upon my benevolence just to test my patience. Today, it was Zhao Chai who suffered. If I stay my hand now who will they target next? Hua’er? Cong’er? Perhaps you or Xiang Yun will last a little longer, but in the end I will be left to stand alone.
No, the time to act is now. There are too many ways they could hurt me. Rather than depending on your master to act as a protective charm, it’s better for us to depend on ourselves. They’ve taken the first step. We will counter attack now. Let’s go.”
“Do you have a plan, Missy?” though Hong Lian had cautioned Su Nuan Nuan not to act rashly, she had done it in order to protect her mistress’ desire to not participate in the dirty business of family politics. However, it looked like Missy had finally understood the hidden dangers of the inner court politics and was prepared to fight back. She was actually quite pleased as she thought: Well, this attitude is more befitting of the heir’s official wife.
“Of course.” Su Nuan Nuan nodded, “The person in charge of housekeeping is that Auntie. Lu, right? Let’s go look for her now.”
Hong Lian hurriedly protested, “Missy, please don’t be mistaken. Though we address her as Auntie Lu, she still has to give you face as the heir’s official wife. There’s no need for you to damage your standing and go look for her personally. Do sit down. I shall fetch her myself, she’ll not dare to disobey you.”
Su Nuan Nuan shook her head, “Though I am the heir’s wife, I am not the one in charge of the household affairs. As long as I just stay within this courtyard, the ones below us would only pay us pretty lip service. Do you really think Madam Yun and the second lady will really let her assist us? No, we must make our move now and not give her any room to twist her way out. Else we’ll be the laughing stock of the day.”
Hong Lian thought for awhile, this actually made sense. If Missy were to personally go, those socially below her would not dare to beat around the bush. If Missy got angry with them, even the old madam and the little marquis wouldn’t back them up.
She exchanged a look with Xiang Yun as they trailed after their mistress, both shared the same excited thought: Missy was really going to take the initiative, with this act, she would plunged herself fully into inner court life and, who knows, maybe she would even sincerely fight for the master’s affections. The two maids looked towards the future with shining eyes.
Ms. Zhang was currently resting in her room enjoying some tea. As she had married into the Lu family, most of the people in the mansion addressed her as Auntie Lu. Because her grandmother was one of the old madam’s dowry maid, her position within the mansion was not low. This meant her family lived quite comfortably with her husband managing the outer court, while she took care of the inner court. Though this arrangement looked quite perfect from the outside, in reality, her position was rather precarious. Just one wrong step, and her carefully built up life could come crashing down.
Luckily, Ms. Zhang was a sharp, cunning individual and after five years as housekeeper she never had any major blunder. While the main house’s wives and concubines battled against each other, she managed to handle their demands diplomatically and have actually gained a rather major influence. With Madam Yun and second lady sharing the financial duties, one being a second wife and the other the official wife of the second young master, they appeared equal in strength and dared not cause trouble for each other. In truth, undercurrents of of a power struggle surged violently beneath this calm surface. It was only through her grandmother’s connection that she was able to deflect the most serious trouble.
In fact, the one that gave her the most headache was the young master heir’s wife. Not only was she a high born lady, the woman was also vicious and cruel. She herself had suffered under that woman’s hand, and she thanked the heaven and earth everyday the that woman was sent to Mei Yue Lou. Though, she had unfortunately been reinstated back to the inner court and was rumoured to have won over the hearts of old madam and the little marquis with her culinary skills. Ah, well, in the end she was just a failure of a woman, she should be busy counting her lucky stars and wouldn’t dare to even dream of making trouble for fear of being sent away.
A peaceful life was sure wonderful, ah.
With her daily scheming done, Ms. Zhang sipped her tea and sighed happily.
At that point, rapid footsteps was heard. She blinked and saw her assistant, Ms. Dong the assistant housekeeper, racing over. When she saw Ms. Zhang looking over, she cried, “Elder, first madam has come with her two maids, what should we do?”
Ms. Zhang’s heart trembled. Surely this was just too coincidental, right? Just when she had dismissed the woman out of her mind, that creature just had to materialize in person? Just what was going on? Still under shock, she said, “You’re certain first madam is looking for us and not just passing through?”
“No,” Ms. Dong frowned and stepped forward quickly to whisper down Ms. Zhang’s ear. “I’ve just heard that large wild cat from Chun Feng Court had been beaten half to death. It’s entirely possible that first madam will come by to look for us.”
Ms. Zhang was even more surprised by this news, and muttered, “So what if first madam’s cat was beaten up? I didn’t do it, so why would she come looking for me?”
“Elder, you’re not thinking the right way. Just think, who would have the best motive for beating up the cat?” Ms. Dong nearly rolled her eyes. She thought, everyone knew you haven’t beaten up the cat. Come one, you’re a smart one, why are you so stupid now? There’s only one reason why they’re coming for you.
It looked like Ms. Zhang still couldn’t wrap her head around this matter and said, “Everyone knows it’s probably second lady who went after that beast, so why is first madam here and not going after them?”
Ms. Dong spread her fingers out helplessly and said, “Elder, not even the audacious first madam could just see second lady without reason, ah. Clearly she’s here to get us to assist her.”
“Hoho, isn’t she making trouble for no reason now?” in the end, Ms. Zhang remained too pigheaded to realize that her impression on Su Nuan Nuan was stuck on Su Meng Nuan. Her inability to make sense of the news around would be her downfall. Look, even Ms. Dong had a better grasp of the situation than her.
Ms. Dong tried to squeeze in a few more words of advice when Xiang Yun’s voice rang out, “Is Ms. Dong here? First madam has arrived. If you still refuse to come and greet her…”
Ms. Zhang and Ms. Dong jumped, they nearly scrambled over each other trying to reach the living room first. They burst into the living room bearing smiles, “First madam, surely there’s no need for you to personally come to such small and dirty place? Wouldn’t it be better to just send a maid over? These lowly ones do not deserve your presence, and to make madam wait, ah, this one should just die, ah.”
Su Nuan Nuan stared down the two babbling maids with narrowing eyes. On the way over, she encountered quite a few maids and noticed a few of them darting discreetly ahead of her. So there was no way these two didn’t know that she was coming. However, she had no interest in highlighting their impertinence and got to the point immediately, “My cat was nearly beaten to death today. Ms. Dong, as the housekeeper of the inner court, I want you to spread the word. I am giving out 10 silver liangs for any information on this terrible assassin. First come first serve.”
Ms. Zhang leaped back in shock: 10 silver liangs? For a cat? Surely that’s a bit to extravagant even more a madam, ba? She quickly bring up her drooping smile, “Madam, surely there’s no need to use such a large amount for a mere cat-” she trailed off at Su Nuan Nuan’s narrow eyed glare. The madam said, “Are you in the opinion that I do not have the ability to settle things for my cat?”
“How could this maid imply anything as such, this maid will surely be struck by lightning for such thoughts.” Ms. Zhang felt her liver shrivelled up even as she denied it.
Su Nuan Nuan laughed coldly and said, “Oh, I know why. Ever since I’ve stayed over at Mei Yue Lou for a few months even the housekeeper has forgotten me. Not to mention, since I am no longer in charge of the household finances, people no longer think I’m important anymore. Well, it can’t be helped, I have no choice but to come here personally to beg favours. Thanks to the lord’s benevolence my presence have been restored into the inner court, though I still do not have any real authority, surely shrimps such as yourself still need to respect my position, or am I wrong?”