The Rebirth team wishes a very Happy New Year to all our readers.Wish this new year brings you lots of happniess, good health and fortune. Have a rocking year and keep smiling (and supporting us)!
Also, starting from this chapter we’ll be dividing the chapters into two parts since the chapters have suddenly become extremely long, upto three to four times of its original size. And it’s not just the flowery descriptions, there’s a lot happening. So without further ado, here’s the chapter…enjoy!
Chapter 66: The Top Scoring Youth (Part I)
The Lantern Festival held in the Great Jin Dynasty's fourteenth year had pa.s.sed in a more lively fashion than in previous years. Within the s.p.a.ce of a night, Jiang Ruan's name was known throughout the capital. For a time, everyone in the capital was talking about the newly returned Eldest Miss of the Jiang fu, her stunning appearance, her incomparable talent, her regard for etiquette, and her n.o.ble manner. In fact, she was not inferior to the Jiang fu's Second Young Lady.
When Jiang Su Su awoke early the next morning, she saw an exquisite white rabbit lantern on the carved wood cabinet by her bed. She stared blankly at it for a moment before she suddenly burst forth in fury and called out in a shrill voice, "Servants! Qing Ting, Hu Die!"
Hu Die ran into the room swiftly. "Miss, what has happened?"
Jiang Su Su pointed at the white rabbit lantern and said, "Who put this here?"
Hu Die was also shocked to see the lantern. "I did not see it this morning; how did it suddenly appear like that?"
Upon hearing this, Nuo Nuo, a third-ranked servant girl who was standing behind Hu Die, came forward to say, "It was the personal maid of Eldest Miss, Bai Zhi, who sent it here. This servant saw that the lantern was adorable so i put it here."
"And who allowed you to act on your own initiative?" Jiang Su Su sneered. "Take her away."
Two elderly yet robust maidservants immediately entered the room, seized the servant girl and dragged her out. In great alarm, that servant girl pleaded for forgiveness. "Second Miss, this servant was at fault. Second Miss, forgive this servant, this servant does not dare to do it again!"
The sound gradually faded away. Hu Die carefully placed a cup of tea in Jiang Su Su's hands and said, "Miss, drink some ginger tea to warm yourself."
Jiang Su Su flung off Hu Die's hand. With one move, she grabbed the rabbit lantern off of the bedside cabinet and fiercely ripped it to pieces. In a fit of anger, she threw the remains onto the ground and stomped on them until nothing could be discerned of the lantern's original shape or appearance.
"Jiang Ruan, that s.l.u.t, clearly she's doing this deliberately. Does she think that she's so high-and-mighty now that she has achieved the lantern? Still, this is something that should not be disclosed to others." Jiang Su Su sat on the couch and said, "There will come a day when she will be just like this lantern, bullied and humiliated by my hand."
With the charged atmosphere, Hu Die did not dare make a sound or movement. At this moment, Jiang Su Su seemed like a devil, nothing at all like her usual gentle and innocent self.
It was precisely at this time that a greatly agitated Qing Ting ran in and said, "Miss, bad news!"
Jiang Su Su was already in a bad temper, so she said in annoyance, "Why are you being so careless and haphazard? What is it now?"
"This servant heard that the talk in the capital, early this morning, was all about that Zhou Da; that he was an a.s.sa.s.sin hired by furen to deliberately besmirch the reputation of Eldest Miss, but yesterday, he accidentally caused trouble for Second Miss instead!"
"What?" Jiang Su Su immediately stood up, unable to take it all in. She queried, "Where did this talk originate from? Did Zhou Da confess? That's impossible!"
"This servant is also not sure," Qing Ting said hurriedly. "Now, the entire capital is talking about this as if it is the truth."
Jiang Su Su's face turned white. "Mother clearly said that the matter of Zhou Da would not be a problem. Who on earth has spread such talk? This is not good, I must see Mother." After speaking, she donned her coat. "Let's go, quickly, Mother will think of a way to help me."
In comparison with Mei Qing Yuan's chaotic situation, Ruan Ju was an oasis of leisurely calm.
 Ji fei gou tiao ( 鸡飞狗跳 ) – lit., the chickens are flying and the dogs are jumping (because they have received a shock).
Lu Zhu carefully placed a bowl of pearl and crystal jade tang yuan on the table, and took out a small dish of rose cakes from the basket. "These dianxin are a reward from the Old Jiang Madame. She says that Miss did very well last night, and bid Cai Que jiejie to send them over."
 Tang yuan ( 汤圆 ) is a Chinese dessert made from a dough of glutinous rice flour mixed with water, rolled into b.a.l.l.s, cooked and served in either sweet syrup (e.g. sweet ginger syrup) or boiling water with fermented glutinous rice, or deep fried. Tang Yuan can be in different colours, and have different fillings (such as sesame or peanut paste). 珍珠翡翠 (zhen zhu fei cui, literally pearls and crystal jade) tang yuan are green and white b.a.l.l.s. For more information see here.
A variety of dianxin.
 Dian xin ( 点心 ) is a style of Chinese cuisine featuring bite-sized portions of food served on small plates or in small bamboo steamer baskets. The food can be sweet or savoury. Examples of common dianxin items are fried radish cake, barbecued pork buns, shrimp dumplings. See here for more information.
Jiang Ruan smiled slightly. The Old Jiang Madame had made no mention of the matter concerning Jiang Su Su. This att.i.tude was certainly food for thought, and it appeared that Xia Yan had not been able to give a satisfactory explanation for the situation in front of the Old Jiang Madame.
As Lu Zhu watched Jiang Ruan sample the dianxin, she said, "Miss, today, a lot of wild rumors are circulating outside. They are saying someone intended to frame Eldest Miss, but caused misfortune for Second Miss instead." She paused and looked at Jiang Ruan, saying "I should think Mei Qing Yuan must be under a lot of pressure at the moment. Miss, after doing this, you must feel a great sense of relief after all that oppression."
 Jiao tou lan e ( 焦头烂额 ) – lit, to be badly burned around the head (while trying to put out a fire).
Lian Qiao was sitting to the side, embroidering. On seeing Lu Zhu's face, she could not stop herself from saying, "It is a relief, however, Lu Zhu, make sure everything that you do is absolutely safe. Just don't cause Miss any more trouble."
"Jiejie, you can rest a.s.sured," Lu Zhu said, pleased with herself. "All I did was to find thirty children in the market, as well as some beggars at Dongcheng Gate. What's more, I used copper coins. There is no way they will be able to trace the source."
Jiang Ruan sipped at the tang yuan soup and said, "You have done very well. Apart from this, did you say anything else?”
"How would this servant dare to forget Miss's commands?" Lu Zhu's face held a trace of hesitation. "However, was phrasing it this way really good? That person's status . . ."
"Whoever helps Jiang Su Su is my enemy; how can I not make him pay the price. In any case, I was merely returning a little courtesy. He did cause me some unhappiness." Jiang Ruan smiled slightly as she replied.
The storm of rumours swirling around the capital had not only reached the Jiang fu, but also the Jinying w.a.n.g fu as well, where the elderly Steward Lin tugged at his long beard until it was standing in all directions. "What do we do? This rumour is getting more and more outrageous. Who on earth started spreading it? If I find out who it is, that person will have to pay the consequences."
The person standing opposite him was Ye Feng. He moved his lips as he pondered, but still remained silent.
Within the span of a night, about the same time the rumours started spreading regarding Xia Yan having hired people to tarnish Jiang Ruan's reputation, another rumour had sprung up. This one was claiming that Jinying w.a.n.g, Xiao Shao, had a deep affection for Jiang Su Su, which is why he had unhesitatingly lied the previous evening to help her out of her predicament.
This rumour was so vividly and realistically detailed, describing clearly how Jiang Su Su and Xiao Shao were each other's sunshine, that when Steward Lin heard it he was so agitated he almost lost his head. He knew exactly what kind of person his master was as he had watched him grow up. He had never heard Xiao Shao mention Jiang Su Su before; if it had not been for this rumour, Steward Lin would probably not even know who Jiang Su Su was.
"Just who is it that wants to sully w.a.n.gye's pristine reputation? What kind of person is this Jiang Su Su, what deep affection? Go to h.e.l.l!"
Steward Lin had always been known for his explosive temper. Although he was getting on in age, he was still like a child, saying what he thought without hesitation. Ye Feng was used to him by now and simply looked to the heavens, feigning ignorance. It was at this time that they heard Xiao Shao calling from within the residence, "Ye Feng."
Ye Feng hurriedly replied, in a grave tone, "Master," before dodging into the residence. He saw Xiao Shao standing in front of a table, playing with the elaborate dagger in his hand as he asked, "Did you find out who it was?"
"It seems as though it was a servant girl from the Jiang fu, but the Jin Yi guards are still checking. Or, it could have been the Second Miss of the Jiang family?" Ye Feng tentatively asked. From his point of view, Xiao Shao was good looking, charming, and outstanding. Jiang Su Su may have been spreading the rumour herself, hoping that it would strengthen her possibility of marrying Xiao Shao. If the rumour did get around, then Jiang Su Su would have no choice but to marry her.
"It's not her," Xiao Shao said.
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"Master thinks it is . . . ?" Ye Feng had his misgivings, and could not help asking the question.
Jiang Chao came to his senses. He had never imagined that this impoverished, haughty person would apologise in front of him, but he was definitely not happy. Although Liu Min had said these words, he could see from his eyes that Liu Min was just as haughty as before, and was seemingly mocking his juvenile behaviour. For a moment, the rage in his heart flared even hotter. He sneered, "Do you think a verbal apology is good enough? If you don't lick this clean for me today, don't even think about leaving this room!"
The other scholars could not stop talking amongst themselves as they saw this scene unfolding before them. Although they also regularly bullied Liu Min, when it came down to it, they were all scholars, and should not be willing to partic.i.p.ate in or initiate such degrading behaviour. In addition, the fact that someone as gentle and warm as Jiang Chao was behaving in such an aggressively imperious fashion caused them to be contemptuous of him.
Jiang Chao was totally unaware of the views of those around him. The only thing on his mind was to make things as difficult for Liu Min as possible, so that he would be reduced to begging in front of him. If he refused to beg for mercy, even if he managed to get out of this current situation, he would have plenty of trouble in the future. After all, he had a bed-ridden mother.
Liu Min squeezed his palms together. A hint of annoyance crossed his naturally delicate face, but he suppressed it very quickly. He took off his faded outer jacket and said, softly, "If this is what Master Jiang wants, then Liu Min can only do as he says." After saying this, he knelt down in order to lick off the ink drops from the corner of Jiang Chao's clothes.
Everyone held their breaths. Today's events were indeed too odd. Firstly, that the ordinarily cordial Jiang Chao would become so overbearing, and secondly, that the usually solitary, arrogant and candid Liu Min would bend the knee and exercise forbearance.
Jiang Chao still stood in the same spot, his heart filled with an indescribable anger. Initially, he had intended to use Liu Min as a means to vent his frustration, but he never thought that Liu Min act like a totally different person. It was like punching on soft, velvety cotton. What had clearly been intended as a move to demean Liu Min had somehow, with one look from Liu Min's clear, haughty eyes, reversed the situation such that Liu Min seemed to be the person with the n.o.ble status, looking down on him.
Jiang Chao could not bear the thought and moved to stamp on Liu Min's body. Who knew, just as he raised his leg, something struck his knee so that he was rendered immobile.
Mo Cong stepped forward. He said, "Where it is possible to let people off, one should spare them. Jiang xiong, is it necessary to make a fuss over an item of clothing? Liu xiong did not do it intentionally, so is it necessary to upset his mood just a few days before the preliminary round of the Imperial examination? Let xiaodi give you an item of clothing in compensation, and Jiang xiong can stop making things difficult for Liu xiong."
Liu Min eyed Mo Cong, never having thought that he would speak on his behalf. Jiang Chao was also astonished, but Mo Cong's status was such that he could not freely act against him. Thus, even though he was still in a towering rage, he could not express it. He shook out his sleeves and snorted as he left the room with big strides, not once looking back.
Once Jiang Chao had left, Mo Cong told Liu Min, "It's all right."
Liu Min stood up and lightly brushed the dust off his body. He did not seem concerned about the ink all over him as he thanked Mo Cong and resumed his seat to silently peruse his scrolls. His movements were confident and relaxed, without any hint of suppressed frustration, as if the altercation had not even occurred. Mo Cong observed him and a deep thought flashed in his eyes.
The Imperial Academy scholars were used to wrangling in this fashion, but they did not realise that the situation that had just played had been witnessed by two people – Master of Records Song and Chancellor Chen, who were both standing by the door. Master of Records Song was slightly angry. "Jiang Chao is too unreasonable. What does he think the Imperial Academy is, that he can come here and display such unreasonable behaviour as he likes, just because he is from a n.o.ble lineage? This brings such dishonour to scholars!"
"His heart was full of anger which he could not control," Chancellor Chen said. They too had heard of the previous night's events, and naturally knew why Jiang Chao was behaving abnormally.
"No matter the reason, he should not have treated a colleague this way!" Master of Records Song said in annoyance. "Liu Min surprised me today; he actually knows how to yield. If it had been in the past, I don't know how big the storm would have been."
If it had been in the past, with Liu Min's temper, it was indeed bound to become a big mess. Even though, logically speaking, Liu Min had just cause, Minister Jiang was extremely p.r.o.ne to shielding someone by hiding their faults despite knowing that they were in the wrong, especially his di son and di daughter. In the end, the person to suffer would still be Liu Min.
"That he knows how to bend and yield is the most terrifying aspect." Chancellor Chen's gaze deepened. "Previously, we thought little of him, but this boy can bend and stretch. If he is able to enter the Imperial Court, he will definitely become someone very capable and highly valued. The difference between him and Jiang Chao is considerable."
Master of Records Song was accustomed to Chancellor Chen not thinking highly of Liu Min. That he would actually spontaneously praise Liu Min at present, and hold the same view as himself, caused Master of Records Song to feel relieved. He said, in an agreeable manner, "Indeed, Liu Min is utterly sincere, and is always upright and forthright in his conduct towards others. Truly, a rare talent."
Chancellor Chen smiled and did not say anything else.
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Translated by : Shl
Edited by : Anks & Ely
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