Chapter 107 : Happy Occasions
Trigger Warning: implied plan to force abortion.
Please note, this is a work of fiction. Get a second opinion if you’re unsure about medical advice.
Consumming medications without research and the guidance of a licensed trained professional is not safe or recommended. Also, secretly giving medications to others, or performing medical acts/procedures is dangerous, unlawful, and potentially life threatening.
Jiang Ruan could not tear her eyes away but suddenly the sound of footsteps could be heard from outside. Xiao Shao’s expression immediately changed, and he grabbed Jiang Ruan’s arm to pull her to hide behind the door of a side room.
It was Hu Die. She walked into the room and walked out again soon after, holding the dead chicken. Next she dug a pit under the plum tree in the courtyard and buried the animal there. From her practised movements, it could be deduced that this was clearly not the first time she had done this.
As Jiang Ruan’s thoughts churned in her mind, in a moment of carelessness, the dangling ornament she wore in her hair became entangled with Xiao Shao’s collar. It was then that she realised how close they were to one another. The faint scent of green bamboo that emanated from Xiao Shao’s body, and the ice-cold material of his clothes gave her an unexpected sense of serenity.
Soon after Hu Die left the room, the person within doused the light. It seemed as though this person could brazenly fall asleep even after doing all that. When they could no longer hear any sounds, Xiao Shao lifted Jiang Ruan like before and returned to Ruan Ju.
Lian Qiao and Bai Zhi, who had been anxiously waiting in the room, heaved a sigh of relief when they saw the pair return safely. They realised that Xiao Shao and Jiang Ruan had matters to discuss, so they quickly withdrew, shutting the door behind them and presumably keeping watch outside.
Xiao Shao sat in front of the table. Jiang Ruan poured him a cup of cold tea, and asked, “Just now, you saw everything clearly, she . . . was she practising meishu?”
“Yes,” Xiao Shao said as he received the tea, his eyes fixed on the tea leaves floating on the surface of the cup. “She has been practising it for quite a while already. After a period of time, there will be no need for the chicken blood.”
Jiang Ruan frowned. Three years ago, Jiang Su Su had entered the private temple, so how on earth had she come into contact with South Xinjiang and its black arts? She said, “How did this practice of the South Xinjiang make its way to the central plains?”
Xiao Shao’s eyebrows rose as he said, “Someone is secretly helping Jiang Su Su.”
“Helping or making use of her?” asked Jiang Ruan.
Xiao Shao shook his head. “Until we find that person, everything is a potential variable in the equation.”
Jiang Ruan lowered her head.
Xiao Shao observed her seriously. From his angle, he could see her slender neck. Perhaps it was because the lamp light caused people to be illuminated with a softer glow, or because Jiang Ruan’s att.i.tude towards him this night had been warm, but she was completely different from her ordinarily disaffected persona. At present, her frown made him feel as though an expression like that should never be seen on her face, and consequently raised the desire to help her with anything.
Thus, before Xiao Shao had even figured out what he was thinking, he heard his own detached voice saying, “The Jiang fu is no longer safe, I will find someone to stay by your side and protect you.”
Jiang Ruan was slightly taken aback and quickly replied, “There’s no need.”
“Jiang Su Su has embraced the black arts of the South Xinjiang people, and the South Xinjiang people are definitely not going to stop there. My guess is that they are already somewhere very close by, for Jiang Su Su will one day be put to good use. If there is a South Xinjiang person presently in the Jiang fu, your situation will be very dangerous.” Xiao Shao thought for a moment before continuing, “I will send a woman over.”
Jiang Ruan looked up at him. The young man before her was coldly handsome, yet was also highly considerate and thoughtful in all aspects. There was no question that to have someone trained in martial arts beside her was indeed very tempting. If something could be exploited, then it was best to exploit it in full. She paused in thought before responding, “Many thanks.”
Xiao Shao nodded. He said, “I’ll return home first. Tomorrow, I’ll send that person over.”
Xiao Shao watched as she nodded. In the next second, he leaped out of the window and in the blink of an eye disappeared into the night.
When she called Lian Qiao and Bai Zhi in, both maidservants expressed a sense of wonder. “How did Xiao w.a.n.gye disappear so quickly? We have been watching the door very closely and no one has gone through.”
Jiang Ruan shook her head. Xiao Shao truly knew the Jiang fu inside out. He was graceful even when his actions were like those of a thief; surely he was unique in the entire Great Jin dynasty. On thinking about the person Xiao Shao would send over the next day, she felt her curiosity piqued. Lian Qiao saw that it was very late and hurriedly said, “Miss, why don’t you go to bed and get up later tomorrow morning.” Then having said this, she helped Jiang Ruan to her bed before extinguishing the lamp and withdrawing from the room.
 梁上君子 (liang shang jun zi) – lit. the gentleman who hides on the roof beam. Fig. a thief.
* * *
Because she had slept so late the night before, the next day, Jiang Ruan only roused at nine in the morning. When Lian Qiao brought in water so Jiang Ruan could freshen up, she seemed to want to say something, but hesitated. Jiang Ruan noticed her behaviour and said, “What’s the point of choking yourself? If something has happened, say what it is.”
 日山三竿 (ri shan san gan) – lit. the sun is as high as three bamboo poles; denotes that it is late. Possibly eight or nine in the morning.
Lian Qiao blinked and said, “Miss, Fifth Yiniang is expecting . . ”
“So fast?” Jiang Ruan was strangely not that surprised. Instead, she smiled and said, “She has really grasped the situation well.”
“Miss antic.i.p.ated that Fifth Yiniang would make her move so quickly?” Lian Qiao asked in amazement.
“She’s not stupid. The longer she waits, the greater her risk,” Jiang Ruan said dispa.s.sionately.
Hong Ying’s greatest trait was her intelligence. She could clearly a.n.a.lyse and delineate the pros and cons of a situation decisively. Now that Xia Yan was pregnant, she was the most important mistress of the Jiang fu. No matter how much – or not – Jiang Quan doted on Xia Yan, if she were to have a little di young master she would inevitably use him as her trump card, then, at that time, Hong Ying would find herself on a dead end road. Just look at the fate of Hong Ying in her last life. In this one, all Jiang Ruan had to do was to make a brief mention, and Hong Ying immediately figured everything out. If Xia Yan really did make a move, and if there was also a child in Hong Ying’s belly, Jiang Quan would not act rashly for the sake of the child. Like this, a child was Xia Yan’s ‘trump card’, and at the same time Hong Ying’s ‘escape from death’ card.
 免死牌 (mian si pai) – lit. escape death tablet/ sign. In ancient times, the Emperor could bestow a certificate upon ministers who had rendered valuable public service granting them and their family members immunity from prosecution for generations.
What would Xia Yan’s expression be when she heard the news of Hong Ying’s pregnancy?
* * *
In Yan Hua Yuan.
With an abrupt movement, Xia Yan flung the cup in front of her to the ground, where it shattered into a myriad of pieces. “Are you sure? Does she really have the ‘happy pulse’?”
 T/N : Happy Pulse means the pulse of a pregnant woman. More here.
The middle-aged man clad in brown holding a medicine box stood before Xia Yan and said, “This humble person has taken her pulse, and she does indeed have the ‘happy pulse’.”
“B*tch! She actually went and got pregnant!” Xia Yan erupted angrily. Hong Ying had clearly drunk the contraceptive medicine under the watchful eye of her trusted servant, Li momo, so they never expected to hear such ‘happy’ news. This meant that Hong Ying had never digested the medicine. Therefore, even if she wanted to intervene in this situation, it was already too late. Her eyes landed on the physician in front of her and she made a sudden decision. “Doctor, do you know any method that would cause a person to miscarry unknowingly?”
This physician treated furens and young ladies in the big houses all year round, so he naturally was experienced in such matters. In a low voice, he replied, “Yes, there are methods, but . . .”
“Then I shall have to inconvenience you, doctor,” Xia Yan said as she touched her gold hairpin. “When you succeed in this matter, this furen will of course show her grat.i.tude handsomely.”
The physician’s face brightened considerably. On seeing this, Xia Yan’s eyes flashed with sinister intent. Was being newly pregnant really a cause for joy? Even for the people of high rank in the imperial palace, whether their children were able to grow up without mishap was something no one could predict with any certainty, what more a child which had yet to be born? For a concubine who had come from a brothel who wanted to have a child, it remained to be seen whether she would have this kind of good fortune.
* * *
The happiest people in the fu were Jiang Quan and Old Jiang Madame. Only, Old Jiang Madame’s condition was deteriorating with each pa.s.sing day. Her health was not at all as it used to be; her moments of lucidity were few, and she tired after speaking for a brief moment. Nonetheless, Jiang Quan was extremely happy. Although he had four daughters, he only had two sons – Jiang Xin Zhi and Jiang Chao- and he had never truly regarded Jiang Xin Zhi as his son. No matter how high his position was within the palace, even if he shone like the sun at noon within the Great Jin dynasty, there was no way Jiang Quan could control him. Moreover, even though Jiang Chao was currently working under Xuan Li, the fact of his having failed the imperial examination and later the trouble he had raised at Bai Feng Lou, together with his a.s.sociation with the Grand Councillor fu which had caused him to become the laughing stock of the capital, resulted in Jiang Quan subconsciously viewing him with much disappointment.
Who could have known that Xia Yan, despite being over forty years of age, would become pregnant? This made him tremendously happy. His cherished wish had been fulfilled, that Jiang fu would have another little young master, but who could have antic.i.p.ated that Hong Ying would also conceive at this time? He was so very pleasantly surprised. Although Hong Ying had come from a brothel, she was gentle and sensible, and she had the grace and lofty character which Xia Yan did not possess. If she could bear a son like herself, br.i.m.m.i.n.g over with talent, he would regard the boy with the utmost care, even though he would be a shu son. Xia Yan was dignified, Hong Ying was aloof. His beautiful wife and concubine were expecting, his family was expanding, he considered himself pleased with his official career- his life was indeed good!
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Jiang Quan thus lost himself in his beautiful daydream, little imagining that his beautiful concubine was in her courtyard swallowing a special medicinal draught. Her maidservant, Pinger, asked, “Yiniang, do you need more water?”
She raised her eyebrows and asked, “How long have you been with him?”
“Ten years,” Tian Zhu responded quickly without raising her head. “Master saved my life, and he asked me to come and protect Miss.”
“Since your master has given you to me, from now onwards, your master is no longer Xiao Shao, but me. If there should come a day when I want you to betray Xiao Shao, you can only obey me,” Jiang Ruan said impa.s.sively.
Startled, Tian Zhu abruptly looked up.
As it turned out, she was harbouring plenty of misgivings. The entire Jinyi Guard was buzzing with curiosity about the ident.i.ty of the girl who had caused Master to punish Ye Feng for three whole years. However, rumours were all they heard, for only those who had been specially tasked to make inquiries about Jiang Ruan knew anything about her.
She had been very young when Xiao Shao had brought her back to the Jinyi Guard and she was considered one of their most outstanding members. Although she was a female, her martial arts skills were not in the least inferior. That Xiao Shao wanted to send her to be the personal guard of a young miss from the family of a court official was initially somewhat difficult for her to accept. The uniquely frank and straightforward manner with which Jiang Ruan had accepted her at the fu’s main entrance earlier had startled her, but she found this current statement to be even more incredible.
She met Jiang Ruan’s gaze and couldn’t help but feel a sense of shock.
What kind of gaze was this, utterly cold yet profound, as if she could pierce straight into someone’s soul and subject it to careful scrutiny? They had learned to kill from the time they were young, and only killers had such ice-cold eyes. But this Eldest Miss of the Jiang family could not possibly be a killer.
Under Jiang Ruan’s coldly detached yet scrutinizing gaze, she felt a tinge of unease. She pursed her lips and remained silent.
“I understand, it’s hard to let go of one’s old master,” Jiang Ruan said without emotion. “But, Tian Zhu, you have to remember, if you are unable to regard me as your master now, then in the same way, I will also be unable to regard you as my trusted aide. As my personal maidservant who knows martial arts, I may ask you to undertake some errands, but I will not be able to treat you with sincerity until you are able to regard me as your master.”
These straightforward words would cause anyone’s heart to turn cold. So, too, this young lady who was unwilling to lie to others, felt her resolve tremble slightly. After a considerable silence, she replied, “Tian Zhu understands.”
Jiang Ruan tapped the tea cup in front of her and said, “Observe my second younger sister’s courtyard for the next few days, as well as Furen’s courtyard.”
Tian Zhu lowered her head and said, “Yes.”
* * *
The days pa.s.sed by as they usually did, as if everything was tranquil. Jiang Quan was busy with official business every day, and Jiang Chao was rarely in the fu. Xia Yan and Hong Ying stayed in their courtyards all day in order to nurture their foetuses in peace, and there was surprisingly no conflict. Jiang Su Su also re-emerged, but she had mellowed considerably compared to her previous arrogant and willful temperament. Even Old Jiang Madame praised her, saying that her going to the private temple had been the right course of action, since she was now increasingly displaying a ‘Buddha nature’, and her temperament was more gentle than before. In this way, the events of three years ago were all blamed on the demon who had ‘possessed’ her.
If there was anything of note, it would be Jiang Li and Jiang Dan’s coming-of-age ceremony. Jiang Li’s ceremony was exceedingly lively and full of excitement, as Second Yiniang had always been somewhat garish. Because Jiang Ruan and Jiang Su Su’s ceremonies had not been held in the capital city, Jiang Li’s ceremony was arranged as if she were a di daughter.
People from Zuo Langzhong’s fu also attended but they did not say anything, and the wedding date was set for the end of summer this year. The princ.i.p.al reason was that Zuo Langzhong was no longer young, and the fu had been pressing him on the issue. What’s more, this marriage had been decided three years ago, so there was nothing left for either family to bring up.
Jiang Dan also made an appearance on the day of Jiang Li’s coming-of-age ceremony, but there was nary the slightest sign of unwillingness. She appeared exceedingly acquiescent, and offered her sincere wishes to Jiang Li upon her coming of age. As a result, those who had once disdained Jiang Dan began to feel that this shu daughter was actually very gentle and moderate, as well as highly magnanimous. In a trice, she had gained the good opinion of many.
However, Jiang Dan’s ceremony could not compare to Jiang Li’s. Because Xia Yan and Hong Ying were both expecting, Old Jiang Madame was not in good health, and Eldest Yiniang had been virtually invisible in the fu for a good many years, the responsibility for organising Jiang Dan’s ceremony fell on Second Yiniang. There was no way, in any circ.u.mstance, that Second Yiniang would allow Jiang Dan’s ceremony to overshadow Jiang Li’s. And so, the ceremony that day was very perfunctorily conducted. Despite this, Jiang Dan maintained a gracious expression on her face throughout, and no unhappiness could be detected at all.
Jiang Ruan watched her with a faint smile. Jiang Dan’s thoughts and inclinations were becoming more profound with each pa.s.sing day. Jiang Quan regarded her as well-behaved and obedient, but Jiang Ruan knew her fourth younger sister was definitely not that simple.
However, setting aside all these matters, the days pa.s.sed extremely comfortably. It was as if the Jiang fu had always been a warm and harmonious family, instead of a dangerous and b.l.o.o.d.y battlefield.
By the time the flowering season for the peach trees in front of the door had pa.s.sed, Xia Yan’s belly was completely obvious, and her body began to respond in other ways. Her appet.i.te became very good, and her body grew more plump. The effects of the pregnancy were more p.r.o.nounced than when she had carried Jiang Su Su and Jiang Chao. Perhaps it was because she was advanced in age but she did especially attach any importance to maintaining herself, so she was nothing like the graceful and attractive woman of the past.
Although pregnant herself, Hong Ying had blossomed, becoming even more tender and beautiful. Who knew if it was due to the pregnancy, but her complexion had become quite rosy. In contrast to Xia Yan, although her pregnancy had also begun to show, she took care of herself daily. Compared with her previous aloof appearance, contrary to expectation, her pregnant figure exuded some degree of feminine charm, and she grew more alluring, with l.u.s.trous black hair and supple skin.
A somewhat nicely plump wife on one hand, and an alluring concubine on the other. Normally, Jiang Quan was not someone who coveted beautiful women, but when all is said and done, men are fond of what is fresh and beautiful. Besides, Xia Yan had already borne him Jiang Su Su and Jiang Chao, whereas this was his first child with Hong Ying. So even though Jiang Quan ordered his people to look after Xia Yan with the utmost care, his visits to Hong Ying’s courtyard grew in frequency.
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