Chapter 86: Hit Off at First Sight
Translated by Gumihou
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“Xue Zhi Lan?”
Xu Ran Yun’s voice went high pitched as she collapsed into her chair. “What did she want Xue Zhi Lan for?”
Feng Xian also grew agitated as she muttered, “First madam used to have a good relationship with Madam Lan. Since Madam Lan had always lowered her head in front of first madam, that woman had gone over to join hands with her? Especially now that she knows that she can’t win against you alone. Madam, this is not good, ah.”
Xu Ran Yun was also growing agitated, however, she stiffened her spine and said, “I don’t believe it. Xue Zhi Lan have always shown a warm and gentle face tothe people around her. The lord made me the household manager because of her weak impression. Even if she want that woman to manage the house, the lord would never agree. Moreover, if she really wanted to cause trouble, why didn’t she just shoulder the housekeeping responsibilities herself? Why would she pull Xue Zhi Lan over?”
“Madam also mentioned this before, the way first madam did things was unclean, which was why even old madam was hesitant to support her, ah. If she manage to pull Madam Lan to support her, elder madam and old madam might not be able to stand firm against her.” Feng Xian continued to prattle on flatteringly to Xu Ran Yun, doing her best to analyse the situation to the most agreeable view for her mistress.
The more they discuss, the more anxious Xu Ran Yun became. Finally, she said in a firm voice, “You go and check out what’s happening at Autumn Cloud Pavilion. See what kind of movement first madam and Madam Lan are making and report to me.”
After speaking to Feng Xuan, she turned to a lower ranking maid and said, “You may leave off normal work for the moment. Right now, I want you to make contact with the people within the mansion. Did you not have plenty of sisters in working in different ranks? Think of a way to infiltrate Autumn Cloud Pavilion. As long as you bring me some useful news, this madam shall reward you. Go now.”
The lower ranking maid immediately agreed and left for Autumn Cloud Pavilion. Just as she arrived, she encountered a girl called Qiao’er with whom she was quite friendly with. When the girl saw her, she hailed, “Mei’er, what are you doing here? How are you so free now?”
Mei’er smiled back, “Our place is really leisurely. Aside from heating up water, I don’t have much else to do. It gives me time to stroll about, but what about yourself?” as she spoke, she went up to the maid, casting a wary eye at the pearled curtain of the main house. trying to decide if it was safe to speak here. It’s entirely possible that someone might be listening in on them.
“How could I dare to compare? Did I not just prepared the bird food for today? Now that you’re here, let’s have a little chat.” Qiao’er said as she approached a small collection of birdcages next to a fountain. It was time to change their water.
This could not have gone better than Mei’er had anticipated. With her ears peeled, she listened to the other maid’s chatter. Unfortunately, she was unable to gain any useful information and eventually grew confused. Could it be that first madam and Madam Lan never said anything to each other when they met up? Or were they speaking in riddles? Could it be possible they knew that I was coming?
After awhile, she heard a surprised ‘Yi?’ from Qiao’er, “Why is first madam there?”
Mei’er gasped and looked towards the direction Qiao’er was gazing at, and saw Su Nuan Nuan walking out of a side room with Concubine Jing. Both of them were leisurely strolling towards the inner court, causing her to gape. Since when did those two get together? Could it be that first madam was here to see Concubine Jing instead of Madam Lan?
In a rush, Mei’er said, “Oh, I just remembered I need to find Little Yu for something. She should be at the inner court now, right? I’ll go see her now.” Without waiting for Qiao’er to reply, she quickly rushed towards down the corridor. As she left, Qiao’er sneered, but did not expose her as she continued to water the birds.
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“If madam wishes to make use of the rose petals, the season is quite late for them. Beginning of spring is the best time for roses. That’s when their fragrance is the best, however, if you want to make tea, syrup of rose, soup or rouge, these are still quite good.”
The Autumn Cloud Pavilion garden was Concubine Jing’s favourite. It was filled with plants, flowers and herbs of all kinds, a gentle breeze would bring a cloud of fragrance over to the front of the house. In fact, the moment Su Nuan Nuan stepped into this sea of flowers, she immediately fell in love. As she studied the rose vines covered in colourful roses, she bobbed her head agreeably, “These are very nice, I can make Fresh Flower Pastries from them.”
“Fresh Flower Pastries?” Concubine Jing smiled, “I keep hearing about madam’s culinary skill. Old madam never cease praising the snacks you made, and now you wish to make new ones? I must say, though I have eaten snacks decorated with fresh petals, this is the first time I hear of Fresh Flower Pastries.”
Su Nuan Nuan grinned, “Naturally we can’t just roll up some fresh flowers in dough and bake them as is. It’s quite time consuming. I’ll let you have some when I’ve made them.” As she spoke, her eyes travelled over the rose vines over towards sturdier rose bushes with mixed feelings. Time and space seemed to warped as she unconsciously walked towards the rose bushes, they reminded her of the last time she had walked among such flowers before.
“Does madam likes these wild roses?”
Concubine Jing watched as she leaned forward to sniff deeply at the wild roses. With a smile, she said, “These flowers are everywhere. When I first planted them, Madam Lan said they were not fit for the refined halls of this mansion. However, I do love their subtle fragrance. Their beauty are the kind that inspire pity rather than awe, moreover, these are the type with thorns. Though many admired the flowers I have here, everyone tended to ignore these. So, why have madam taken a liking to them?”
“What fit for elegant halls? Are things that fit elegant halls all good things?” Su Nuan Nuan sighed deeply. Her fine hands stroked the familiar looking petals gently, “I used to have these in my previous home. Though they did not inspire much feelings then; the sight of them now make me yearn for something dear to me.”
The roses that Concubine Jing spoke of were the ones that Su Nuan Nuan had grown up with in her past life. Though she never knew their scientific name, they were always Thorny Rose to her. The fragrance was similar to the Damask rose. Because they were a wild type, they flowered all year long and needed little care. Which made them popular with regular gardeners. Nearly every house in her street had a few of these in their front garden. However, due to their commoner status, most aristocratic families despised them.
The reason why Concubine Jing planted them here was probably because it reminded her of her commoner roots. When the beauty spoke of their thorns, Su Nuan Nuan felt she could somehow understand her feelings. These thorns were like the cloak of pride she had wrapped herself in order to keep others away. Like a Thorny Rose, she stood erect and proud, aware that she could be snap down at any time.
Concubine Jing was someone who loved flowers. Su Nuan Nuan’s love for flowers in her past life was so great that she took up flower arrangement courses, researching all kinds of flowers and grasses ardently to understand them. Her original motive to investigate Concubine Jing was forgotten the moment she found their mutual love for flowers. The more they talk about flowers, the better they got along. Their conversation peaked when they reached the topic of ikebana and flower arranging.
Finally Concubine Jing called for her personal maid, Zhu Xiu, “Go to my room and bring me the Beauty’s Vase over.”
As Zhu Xiu ran off, Concubine Jing smiled, “From what I hear, madam is a great expert in this area. Would it be possible for this lowly one to widen her horizon at madam’s place?”
“Of course, ah.” Su Nuan Nuan happily agreed. Though she was a foodie, one can’t spend all day eating and cooking. Even a foodie should have some other hobby, right? Since Concubine Jing already offered, she happily invited her over to compare notes.
Zhu Dan quickly came back with the Beauty’s Vase. Su Nuan Nuan saw that this maid was quite a pretty one, she’s certainly prettier than most other maids she had seen in the mansion. Her liveliness gave her a certain unconscious charm too. Su Nuan Nuan thought she understood, this must be Concubine Jing’s maid while she was still at the brothel. Well, it made sense. That stupid amount of money to redeem one person was too ridiculous. Having a buy one free one, or even buy one free two situation was much fairer.
The two studied the vases and then looked closely at the oceans of flowers around them. Each of them going after a particular flower that caught their eyes. Even then, it was still a cooperative effort with Su Nuan Nuan saying earnestly, “Little sister, you’re paying too much attention to flowers. For a more balance effect, you must also include leaves, grasses and little branches. For example, these Baby’s Breath, I see none in your basket. Perhaps they are too plain in your eyes, but for a greater impact you must have them as side characters so that your main flowers looked better…”
Concubine Jing nodded at the instructions, she was filled with high spirits as she said, “Madam is right, it does look better this way. This one shall instruct people to fetch me more seeds soon. Would madam please have a look and see if there are any plants we’re lacking. Let me know and this one shall plant them immediately. This one has very little skill, but is still good at gardening.”
“Since that is so, let’s find a time to visit Mei Yue Lou. The lord has already sent people to flatten the grounds there. There should be about 20 or 30 mu (1/15 hectare per mu) of land there. I plan to have a large portion converted into a hothouse. Aside from vegetables, let’s plant flowers and grasses there. That way we can feast our stomach and senses, right? It’s not a waste of we can strike two birds with one stone.”
Concubine Jing grew happy at Su Nuan Nuan’s words. She nodded, “This one thanks madam. This one has heard that the land has been properly flattened two days ago and had gone over for a look. It really is a good place. However, when this one heard that madam wishes to plant vegetables, this one dared not say anything. However, since you have spoken it yourself, this one is shall do her very best…”
As the two chatted, their hands moved along, putting flowers and grasses together. Suddenly, a cheerful voice interrupted, “Yo~, what is first madam and little sister Jing chatting about so happily? Do include me too.”
The two ladies turned, and saw Xue Zhi Lan approached. In her light coloured clothing, she looked like a flower amongst the sea of flowers. When a breeze blew, it was like the flowers were bowing down to their deity. Su Nuan Nuan stood up from where she was crouching by a vase and smiled, “Though you wish to listen, I’m afraid we have finished speaking. Could it be that our chattering has disturbed you? And wished to give us a talking to?”
It was rare for Xue Zhi Lan to see Su Nuan Nuan speak so casually. For a stunned moment, she did not know what to say. Then, with an ingratiating laugh, she said, “Madam’s words are too heavy. How could this one think such things? I heard the maids say you’re looking for Sister Jing and dared not come for fear of disturbing your business. This one planned to wait until the business is over before approaching. However, since this one did not see you come out of the garden, this one begin to feel anxious and went to investigate.”
Su Nuan Nuan smiled at Concubine Jing, “You hear her? Clearly she wants me to leave. Don’t tell me the two of you have some secret plans together? Am I being a bother?”
Xue Zhi Lan immediately came forward and grasped Su Nuan Nuan’s arm. “Madam really wronged this one. This one looks forward to your arrival, yet never saw you. Now that you’re here please don’t leave. These days I’ve eaten a lot of your things, let this one prepare some small snacks from my kitchen to serve you for lunch. Though it could not be compared to the style of and flavour of your cooking, to this one’s estimation it’s still edible. Would madam please grant this favour.”
Her affectionate and humble approached shocked Concubine Jiang. Hey, while that woman had fawned over first madam in the past due to her violent temper, social status and connection with the Duke of Ping, didn’t she immediately abandoned her deferential attitude the moment Duke of Ping lost power?
Even when first madam moved back into the inner court, I don’t see you fawning over her. Why are you doing it now?
[Gumihou: I’m… kind of scared of Xue Zhi Lan…]
 Damask Rose – one the most ancient strain of roses