Chapter 105 : A Startling Change (Part II)
In spite of this thought, Jiang Ruan smiled at Hong Ying. “What Fifth Yiniang just said is really terrifying. There are so many people in the fu protecting Furen’s baby, so Fifth Yiniang has nothing to be afraid of. Ruan niang thinks that Fifth Yiniang’s top priority should not be to delve deeply into the child in Furen’s belly, but to have her own child.”
She, an unmarried girl, openly discussed the matter of having children with the fu’s yiniang. There was not a bit of shyness on her face at all, as if this was a natural thing. Although Hong Ying was shocked in her heart, she answered with a blush on her face, “Eldest Miss, it’s not that this concubine doesn’t want to have a baby, but…but…”
A girl born in the brothel had to take a drug from an early age, which could not only make a woman’s body fair and smooth but also make her body give off a peculiar fragrance. Naturally it was a means for girls to win over benefactors. However, there was also a side effect to such a drug- infertility.
When Hong Ying first entered the fu, she truly only wanted to gain Jiang Quan’s favour and be liked by him. Eventually, she succeeded. But, the longer she stayed in the house, the stronger her desire to have a child grew. Men’s favour might not last long, but if there was a child, a son, her status would be promoted by leaps and bounds. She didn’t try to overthrow Xia Yan because Xia Yan was backed by the Xia fu, but she would have been satisfied if Jiang Quan were to consider both her and Xia Yan as equals.
Every time Jiang Quan took a rest in her courtyard, Xia Yan would send Li momo with soup to avoid pregnancy, and she ensured that she finished drinking it. Then, every time after Li momo departed, she made herself choke and forced herself to spit out all of the soup. Even so, she had secretly asked a physician about the drug she had taken in the brothel when she was young and he told her that her chances of conceiving were very slim.
Her inability to conceive a child was a thorn in her heart. Meanwhile, Xia Yan was now pregnant. After all her painstaking efforts to gain everything in front of her, would everything return to as it was before? She was unwilling.
But what could she do? She never got pregnant.
Jiang Ruan took a sip of tea leisurely and asked her indifferently. “Why can’t you be pregnant? There is no woman in the world who cannot conceive children. “
Hong Ying was stunned. She raised her head to look at Jiang Ruan. “Eldest Miss, what do you mean by this?”
Jiang Ruan looked at her with pity. “What to do, Fifth Yiniang, Ruan niang also sympathizes with you. But to live safely in the fu, you must first have a child. Do you understand? If you want children, you will have children. “
Hong Ying took a moment to digest the meaning of Jiang Ruan’s words. She was so shocked and looked at Jiang Ruan as if she didn’t know this young woman at all. “Eldest Miss…”
Jiang Quan gave her a slight smile. “It’s Fifth Yiniang’s life. Ruan niang has no right to interfere.”
Hong Ying’s heart was suddenly in chaos. Jiang Ruan’s subtle words unexpectedly revealed a solution: graft the flower of one tree onto another!
 移花接木 (yíhuājiēmù) – lit. to graft flowers onto a tree / to surrept.i.tiously subst.i.tute one thing for another (idiom)
If this matter succeeded, she would ascend to a higher position in the fu. That being so, it was also very risky, and if discovered, it would be for the great crime of muddying the clan’s lineage, and punishable by being bludgeoned to death. She was shocked to hear Jiang Ruan’s calm manner in making this suggestion and felt incredulous. As a daughter of the fu, how could Jiang Ruan propose to use other people’s blood to inherit a position in the Jiang fu?
Had she ever regarded herself as Jiang’s family?
Hong Ying was restless and couldn’t think of anything else for a moment. Jiang Ruan’s words, although frightening, held an inexplicable temptation to her. But, she couldn’t make up her mind and thus replied hurriedly, “Eldest Miss’ words, this concubine…this concubine has listened. I just remembered that there are still things to do, so I won’t bother you anymore.”
Jiang Ruan didn’t urge her to stay either. With a smile, she said, “Fifth Yiniang, please think it over. Don’t rush… but also, don’t wait until Mother suffers an accident.”
When Hong Ying heard this, her heart palpitated once again and she didn’t stay any longer. She left hurriedly with her maidservant.
Lian Qiao saw her flee in a panic, then pushed the door open and came inside. “Why is Fifth Yiniang so frightened?”
Bai Zhi stood silently. Lian Qiao touched her nose. “She must have been intimidated by Miss’ charm.”
Jiang Ruan smiled faintly. Lu Zhu then pushed the door and came in also. With excitement and fear on her face, she turned and locked the door tightly. Then she closed the window, pulled up the curtain and walked over to Jiang Ruan.
Lu Zhu bent down and whispered, “Miss, you asked this servant to investigate Su Xin Yuan; I’ve discovered something.”
Jiang Ruan looked at her. “There must be something wrong. What did you discover?”
“There’s nothing wrong,” Lu Zhu smiled mysteriously. “This servant just listened to what was said in the kitchen. Second Miss led an ascetic life in the ancestral temple thus her body was weak. But since her return, her maidservants, Hu Die and Qing Ting, have asked the kitchen to prepare hens and they personally stew chicken soup every day to supplement Second Miss’ health.
“What’s so strange about that?” Lian Qiao asked.
Lu Zhu shook her head. “I remember that Second Miss hates chicken soup the most. What’s more, Second Miss practised Buddhism in the ancestral temple. If she lived such an ascetic life as they said, she was naturally very devout. But if she was so pious, how can she kill living beings and eat their meat as soon as she returned to the fu. Isn’t that…It’s violating Buddhist precepts. “
Jiang Ruan couldn’t help laughing and looked at Lu Zhu with admiration. Lu Zhu’s observation skills had become much stronger now. The fact that she could think of all of this, it was really remarkable.
When Lu Zhu saw Jiang Ruan’s expression, she was also very proud. She said, “This servant thought it strange, so I paid more attention to this point. Sure enough, there is indeed more. Can you all take a guess?”
Lu Zhu really treated this place as a storytelling tea shop. Lian Qiao couldn’t wait and asked urgently. “What’s going on?”
“Hu Die and Qing Ting said they were making chicken soup, but there was nothing else prepared except for the chicken. When making soups to supplement health, Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis), as well as red dates, should be put in. Is it possible to use a whole chicken?” Lu Zhu explained. “I gave the sweeping maid at Su Xin Yuan two silver so that I could go in and search. I was accompanied by Xiao Huang, the gatekeeper- he has a sensitive nose. Unexpectedly, a chicken carca.s.s was dug out from under the clump of roses in Su Xin Yuan. All of its blood had been bled dry and its feathers were torn apart.” Lu Zhu still felt a lingering fear. “The wound was hideous; I was so scared looking at it. After reburying the carca.s.s in a hurry, I rushed back. “
Lian Qiao and Bai Zhi were silent. They both looked solemn. After a while, Lian Qiao asked, “Miss, is Second Miss possessed by demons? Otherwise, why did she perform such witchcraft?”
“Miss, Second Miss is so scary now. How about staying in the palace for a while? Anyway, Second Miss won’t dare to pa.s.s in front of the Empress Dowager.” Bai Zhi also reminded her.
Jiang Ruan looked at Lu Zhu. “When you saw that chicken carca.s.s, was there a cut wound from the knife where the blood was?”
“No.” Lu Zhu frowned. “This servant was quite mischievous when she was little. Once the next-door Aunt’s Barred Rock chicken pecked me, and so I chased and bit it back. I saw clearly that it was not a knife wound, nor did it look like an animal bite, but rather a human bite. “
 芦花鸡: not the Plymouth one, this is domestic chicken in China.
Bai Zhi and Lian Qiao gasped.
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Jiang Ruan’s head bowed in deep thought.
The man in black didn’t stop. He departed from the imperial study without hesitation. Only the Emperor’s sigh remained.
* * *
Although Dong Feng Lou was the largest treasure shop in the capital, not many people went there. It was because the dazzling array of jewels inside were priced exorbitantly and each of them was a rare treasure. If not for the wealthy high officials and the n.o.bility, no one could purchase the things there.
Today, however, a carriage was parked at the gate of Dong Feng Lou.
The people pa.s.sing by cast curious looks. They wanted to see which family’s young master or miss it was. But, when they saw a remarkably beautiful girl in a red dress alighting from the carriage, everyone immediately knew. This was the capital’s current great personage, Hong’an Junzhu. Not to mention her beauty, Hong’an Junzhu also received Empress Dowager Yi De’s favour. Her rewards were countless. Of course, she could visit Dong Feng Lou.
 炙手可热 (zhìshǒukěrè) – lit. burn your hand, feel the heat (idiom) / fig. arrogance of the powerful / a mighty figure no-one dares approach.
After admiring her for a while, they saw that the young girl in red went into the building with two maidservants.
When Jiang Ruan entered, a beautiful attendant came over. “Miss, would you like to see jewellery?”
Jiang Ruan glanced at her. “I want to see Ye Feng.”
The attendant was startled and shook her head. “Miss, have you come to the wrong place?”
Jiang Ruan smiled before she stretched out her hand, took out something from her sleeve and waved it in front of the attendant. “Is it alright now?”
When the attendant saw clearly what was in Jiang Ruan’s hand, she suddenly changed her look and respectfully said, “Miss, please follow this servant.”
Jiang Ruan put the dagger given by Xiao Shao back into her sleeve. Inwardly, she said, this thing is really useful.
They went to the weapons shop on the second floor. Then the attendant pressed the celadon lion’s head on the wall and a small door opened to reveal an elegant room next to it. The attendant saluted her with both hands clasped on her left waist and both legs bent. “Miss, please come in. Boss Ye is inside.”
 福身子: a woman’s salute, hands and fingers interlocked and placed on the left waist while bending the legs.
When Jiang Ruan stepped inside, she heard an impatient voice speaking. “With so many things going on all day, is Master really going to put me under house arrest for a lifetime? Can’t I just apologize to Eldest Jiang Miss?”
Jiang Ruan stopped walking and asked with a smile. “What’s the apology for?”
Ye Feng looked back impatiently. “Of course for the Treasure…” The remaining half-sentence was swallowed in his mouth. His mouth opened wide with surprise. “Jiang, Jiang, Eldest Jiang Miss?”
Jiang Ruan sat down on the chair opposite him. “I have an urgent matter. I want to see your master.”
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