Chapter 148: A Terrible Performance

 

Translated by Gumihou

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“I’ve told you already. No wind and thick clouds, heavy snow is bound to happen today. I even prepared first madam’s thickest snow repelling cloak, but you just refused to wear it. Now look, it’s snowing, just as I’ve told you before. And we still have a long way to Spring Breeze Court.”

Not long after leaving the North Court, snow drifted down like goose feathers from the sky, and Xiang Yun could not help but scold Su Nuan Nuan, only to see the corner of her mistress’ lips quirk up. Su Nuan Nuan turned her face towards the sky, her eyes bright with happiness as she sighed.

“Missy, you still dare to smile.” Xiang Yun stamped her foot. “Please consider it as this maid begging you, please, please walk a little faster. Otherwise if you catch a cold from the snow, this maid could not bear the responsibility. Last month when you just coughed a little, the master nearly alarmed the entire Capital by calling in the imperial physician. He even scolded us for being careless. If you really catch a cold, this maid heard that he might actually call the specialist over. Do you know? I heard that Specialist Jiang is over 70 now, would you at least please not make trouble for the poor old man?”

“Alright, alright, I have nothing to say to that, are you done?” Su Nuan Nuan finally cut off Xiang Yun’s chattering. She sighed, and reached out to catch a particularly large snowflake in her palm and said softly, “From the way you talk, I already know that your knowledge is lacking. On days when snowflakes form, it’s not cold. It’s colder on snow melts[1] days. So, how could I catch a cold today? Also, that snow cloak is huge and clumsy, I’d look like a winter bear. Who wants to wear it?”

As her voice fell, she spotted a group of people coming over to them. Among them was a woman in black fox fur cloak, a soft snow cap covering her head. Aside from that, two women bearing umbrellas helped keep the snow off. A noble woman surrounded by a bunch of female servants and walking towards the direction of the North Court, who else could it be but Shi Yurou?

Xiang Yun’s mouth twisted, and she hissed, “That large crowd, even first madam Missy never had so many retainers around her. How offensive.” After speaking, she glared resentfully at her ‘disappointing’ mistress, who smiled demurely, “Why are you so upset over such display? That’s the attitude of the newly rich. Look at us, a pair of servant and mistress walking in the snow together. This is what high-level noble should like. The truly powerful keeps a low profile. Do you really think we would lose to the branch lady’s nouveau riche style?”

“That argument is useless with this one, Missy. What high-end, low-end style of luxury, Missy can just fool low-level maids with all those highfalutin talks. This one is a commoner, and therefore prefers the nouveau riche exaggerated sense of style.”

Su Nuan Nuan gave at this unsupportive maid of hers a glare, then, feigning anger she growled, “Oh, woe is me, I have misread you all this while. To think that you’re such a shallow thing. Well, well, maybe I should just gift you over to the branch lady, then you may enjoy the life of a nouveau riche.”

Xiang Yun grinned, and was smart enough to divert the topic, “It’s not like I’ll become newly rich if I move there, I’d only be a servant of a nouveau riche. Does Missy think I’m stupid? Isn’t this just a desire to ‘Tread on flowers'[2]? Where would we tread the flowers? There aren’t any on the ground now.”

“Why on earth am I stuck with a maid like you.” Su Nuan Nuan said grumpily. She pointed at a small footpath lined with plum trees. “Do you see those plum trees? Aren’t they all in bloom? Can’t you smell those plum blossoms?”

“Oh, this one has a bit of cold, my nose can’t smell anything.” Xiang Yun said as she rubbed her little nose.

As maid and mistress chatted, they noticed that Shi Yurou was practically upon them. Su Nuan Nuan stopped. Ever since the Zhao Cai incident, Shi Yurou had done her best to avoid her. Moreover, since she rarely came out of Spring Breeze Court anyway, this was the first time the two of them encountered each other like this.

Shi Yurou, too, paused her steps. She had already spotted Su Nuan Nuan from far away and considered quietly slipping away. However, her entourage today was too large, with so many maids and female servants’ eyes upon her, it would look bad if she were to sneak away like a beaten dog. They would think she was afraid of this person. Therefore, she could only ‘stiffen her scalp'[2], and continued on this path.

At this point, several of the maids and servants were all aflutter at this scene: Aiya, it’s been a few months since they had last seen first madam and branch lady faced off. Isn’t this like a ‘Sledgehammer striking a huge rock’? Fireworks is guaranteed to fly, only who is going to give the first blow? Though first madam was favoured by the lord marquis, she did not actually have any real authority in the house. In contrast, the branch lady has authority over half the household as one of the House Manager. Also, with the second master bringing in more wealth with his business schemes, even the old madam started to brag about her second grandson. As a result, the branch lady now has enough clout to not bow her head before the first madam.

Everyone stopped in their tracks and began to busy themselves, pretending to study this plant or that tree. A few did not even bother to pretend to do anything but watch a good show. A dozen over gardeners happened to walk in this unusual scene. They were actually here to trim off withered branches, but were unable to do their job thanks to the random servants wandering through the trees and shrubs, fiddling about with this flower and that branch. Only, since they were in the middle of winter, majority of the smaller plants and shrubs had all been moved to Mei Yue Lou, and even a casual observer could see that the servants were just milling about pointlessly. It was actually quite hilarious.

Su Nuan Nuan was one of those who could not help herself as a [Pu chi] escaped her. Suddenly, Shi Yurou stepped forward and beamed, “This morning I heard the call of the magpie and wondered what happy thing is going to happen today. To think that it would be meeting first madam in this kind of place! Oh, but why is sister-in-law walking around without a cloak in this snowy weather? It’s going to get colder soon, you must be more careful.”

“Cough, cough, cough…”

Su Nuan Nuan hasn’t finished indulging in her laughter when Shi Yurou launched her attack, causing her to choke on nothing. Curiously enough, this sudden coughing attack appeared rather infectious as other people around them suddenly began to cough too. For a moment, sounds of coughing filled the snowy air, it was quite surreal.

“Oh, that is… I’m not cold. Rain and snow are completely different. A little dusting of snow won’t do anyone harm. Oh yes, is sister-in-law heading over to old madam’s place?” after much effort, Su Nuan Nuan finally managed to get herself under control. Even then, her face continued to twitch as she did her best to deliver a polite speech.

“That’s right, ah. The moment I woke up today, two urgent matters were delivered to me. I had to deal with those before rushing over to greet the old madam. How lucky for me, otherwise I’ll miss meeting sister-in-law here. While I do know that sister-in-law is in the pink of health, please do be more careful. It will be new year soon, if you happen to fall ill, we’d pass the year worrying over you. Sister-in-law, even if you don’t care much about yourself, please do think of old madam and the lord marquis, alright?”

The branch lady’s acting skills have improved a lot, Su Nuan Nuan thought, as she sifted through the layers of this woman’s words. Isn’t this woman just cursing me to fall ill? Well, whatever, that face of hers looks sincere enough, only heaven knows what was really in her heart. Though Su Nuan Nuan was 9 x 9 times sure that she was being deceived.

“I thank sister for your kind words. With the winter upon us, household matters must have increased a lot. You must take care of yourself too.”

The branch lady sudden switch from sneering cold to such warm intimacy was too much to bear. Even Su Nuan Nuan was not at all sure what to do. She could only utter such mild platitudes and heard Shi Yurou say, “Yes, I shall be careful as well. Sister-in-law once mentioned something about striking a balance between work and rest to old madam, and it really influenced me. Though things had been quite busy lately, I still managed to steal some rest time in between to take walks and make small talks with elder madam, Madam Min and second sister. I must say, it has really benefited me a lot. Things still get done and I’m not as tired as before.”

Just what is going on, ah? Is the heaven about to splash us with red rain? Ah, no, it should be red snow, right? Oh, but the snow is still as white as goose feathers. Just what is this crafty woman trying to achieve? Could it be that when the poisonous husband did a 180 degree, his poisonous snake of a wife also did the same? Isn’t this couple just too harmonious? What kind of joke is this?

Su Nuan Nuan had really suffered a major shock. Thankfully, she had her senses trained by Duan Tingxuan’s weird moods, and therefore could somehow still cling to a calm façade. She answered automatically, “That’s very good, if sister-in-law ever finds herself free, do come over to Spring Breeze Court for a visit. You should hurry over to old madam’s place, we were talking about you just now.”

“I’m so relieved by sister-in-law’s words. Once I’m done here, I shall pay you a visit. To be honest, I’ve wanted to visit you for a long time, but I was afraid that sister-in-law might bear a grudge against my mistake in the past and was too ashamed to even walk past your door. Now that sister-in-law has invited me, please don’t blame me for being overly familiar.”

“How could I? Sister is over thinking the matter.” Su Nuan Nuan said with a smile. To be honest, her face had stiffened with shock. Luckily, it had stiffened with a smile on, otherwise, if she was pressed to smile at this moment, it would be quite difficult.

Shi Yurou gave a little farewell bob, beamed again, and left for her destination practically radiating with happiness. In contrast, Su Nuan Nuan felt like she was walking through a fog as she made her way back to Spring Breeze Court. As for the servants who had been loitering around, pretending to be expert gardeners, they all exchanged strange looks with each other. Then, almost as one, they all propped their chins back into place. Thank you heaven, thank you earth, their jaws did not actually broke off their faces hit the ground.

The f*ck is going on? First madam and the branch lady’s first one-to-one meeting after several months and this was the result? What is that warm, friendly atmosphere? This can’t be right, ah. What happened to the clash? The verbal stabbing? At the very least, there should be some insinuating remarks or sarcasm, right? What happened to all the basics of an inner court battle show? Were they all eaten by you two?

First madam is already a strange one, but what happened to the branch lady, ah? How could you greet first madam with such warmth and intimacy? Surely your performance is too excellent?

Shi Yurou too was privately suffering from her own performance. How could she act so subservient before Su Nuan Nuan? But then she remembered her husband’s warning. She recalled the time when she went to visit the cake shop and restaurants just a few days ago and the image of people crowding to get into their shops burned brightly in her mind. Then, her thoughts turned to the money that was practically being flung at them and had to squash down all her hate and resentment. The happiness she had displayed was perfectly sincere and genuine. For, what she saw was not Su Nuan Nuan’s face, but the face of money. This year, she would be able to send the ultimate generous gift to her maternal home and thoroughly outstrip her sisters’ new year gifts. It was through the power of these combined happy thoughts that she was able to pull off such a stunning performance and deceived everyone around her.

 

Please read this at kitchennovel dot come ~

 

All the way back to Spring Breeze Court, Xiang Yun was puzzled. She had asked Missy why this branch lady acted as though someone had taken over her body, and was given a short, “You ask me, I ask who[4]?”

When she saw her mistress heading over to the cold room to fetch cream and make Snow Cream, Xiang Yun had to suppress the questions roiling about in her stomach: Her mistress is just too unconcerned, ah. To think that even to this point you still don’t at least ask us maids to do some investigation. At the very least, you should have Hong Lian and Concubine Jing over to talk about these developments, ah.

We should at least make some preparations just in case the other party decides to make their strike, right?

 

 

[1] Snow days aren’t cold, snow melts freezes – There is an actual idiom, I kid you not, and it’s scientifically proven. I’ve also experienced it. On the one day it snowed when I was in Tokyo (Feb 2014), 12 inches of snow. It was fabulous, I made a snow angel and was out tramping about well past midnight. The next day was not so fun. For one thing, it rained. Guess what happened to all those snow? Yep, snow potholes. Hell is cold and seeps through your shoes.

https://nickelblock.com/?p=213

Here’s some scientific information.

 

[2] To tread on flowers – Basically to explore the unknown. Eg, instead of a proper path, to step on the flowers and wonder off somewhere away from the beaten track

[3] Sledgehammer striking a huge rock – clash of the two titans

[4] You ask me, I ask who? – very typical Chinese way of speaking English, lol

 

 

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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