Chapter 103 : Bidding Farewell (Part I)
Would Jiang Ruan look like this in the future?
Jiang Ruan smiled faintly as she focused her attention on Empress Dowager Yi De, but her heart was in tumult.
By her words, Empress Dowager Yi De was implying that Jiang Ruan should leave.
Empress Dowager Yi De calmly continued, “Aijia knows that you are a clever child. After you have thought about it some more, it will become clear that if you accompany aijia, aijia will keep you safe and sound. When you return to the palace in three years’ time, your status will no longer be that of an ordinary person.” She looked down at the ruby on her nail guard and said, “You have saved aijia’s life. Aijia has considered it carefully and this conferment is the most suitable way to show aijia’s favour.”
Jiang Ruan was taken aback. She understood the significance of Empress Dowager Yi De’s words; she was giving Jiang Ruan an opportunity, an exceptionally good opportunity. However, if she left the Jiang fu at this point, she would be allowing Xia Yan and others of her ilk another three years… and this she was exceedingly reluctant to do. Yet, if she really did accompany Empress Dowager Yi De to the imperial ancestral temple, her status would naturally be different.
Tonight, she was merely the eldest di daughter of the Jiang fu, who had saved Empress Dowager Yi De’s life. Although Empress Dowager showed her grace, being rewarded after the event did not actually amount to much as people would gradually forget what had happened. But, if she accompanied the Empress Dowager for three years, everyone would sit up and take notice of her. When they looked at Jiang Ruan, they would subconsciously think of her as the person who was Empress Dowager’s companion.
Empress Dowager Yi De’s reward could not be said to be ungenerous. Even though she was wholeheartedly bent on vengeance, she also could not help but be moved. Too many things could happen in three years, such as Xia Yan regaining her power and influence. However, if she accompanied Empress Dowager Yi De, she could also ensure that Empress Dowager Yi De was unable to part from her.
To gain something is to lose something else. Jiang Xin Zhi had just entered the court and his foundation was unstable. If he were able to gain the support of the Empress Dowager . . .
She raised her head and looked at Empress Dowager Yi De as a smile spread slowly across her face. “Many thanks for Empress Dowager’s grace, this subject is extremely honoured to have this privilege.”
So be it.
The most agonising situation in this world is not that one loses something before one even obtains it, it is clearly to look on helplessly as what one desires is in one’s hands but is ruthlessly s.n.a.t.c.hed away by another. The higher one climbs, the harder one falls. She would give those people three years to climb to a height from where they could fall to death, and so in three years she would lead them to truly horrible deaths.
Empress Dowager Yi De smiled in satisfaction, and her red lips uttered two words, “Very good.”
* * *
When Guan Liang Han informed Jiang Xin Zhi about the Emperor’s plan, as expected, he saw Jiang Xin Zhi’s eyebrows tightly furrow. Guan Liang Han was unused to seeing him with this chilly countenance, and patted him on the shoulder, “A real man should attack the enemy on the field- with you nagging and fussing so much, aren’t you being too craven and cowardly?”
 唧唧歪歪 (ji ji wai wai) – This meaning was originally an onomatopoeia that refers to the annoying screeching noise a chair makes when it is no longer secure, it has also extended to how people can have an opinion on everything even the noise of creaky tables and chairs; fussy and naggy.
Jiang Xin Zhi replied in anger, “I am not being cowardly at all, only……” He swallowed whatever words he had left to say back down.
Guan Liang Han looked at him with understanding, “Only you hate to part with that younger sister of yours, right? As siblings, you attach more importance to your sister than any other maidens around you. When all is said and done, what is the meaning of that? Moreover, to speak a word of truth, that sister of yours is not a child that could easily be at a disadvantage. I fear that it is better to hope that no one else is a part of her schemes.”
Jiang Xin Zhi calmly widened the distance between himself and Guan Liang Han before saying, “These are Jiang family matters, there’s no need to trouble the General to be concerned with them.”
The moment Jiang Ruan was mentioned, Jiang Xin Zhi became especially p.r.i.c.kly. Guan Liang Han also became angry and said, “Then you can feel awkward about it all by yourself. When the Emperor’s edict arrives, even if you don’t want to go you’ll have to go, unless you want to resist the edict. However, you won’t do that for the sake of your little sister.” Having said his piece, he stormed off in a huff.
Jiang Xin Zhi stood where he was, his thoughts and emotions in a complete mess. Of course, he knew that this was an exceptionally good opportunity. The battlefield was the place where he could fully utilise his martial arts; if he suffered defeat, it would be no more than to give his life fighting for his country, if he was victorious, that would mean enhanced glory and honour. He neither feared death nor sought after glory and wealth, but if he wanted to ensure that Jiang Ruan would be more securely protected, he could only climb higher, step by step.
 马革裹尸 (ma ge guo shi) – to be buried in a horse hide (idiom); fig. to give one’s life on the battlefield.
At the palace banquet, he had seen everything clearly. Even though Jiang Ruan’s intelligence was beyond that of her peers, being in the Jiang fu was seriously too dangerous. Jiang Quan could push her out at any time according to his fancy. The previous evening, were it not for Empress Dowager Yi De speaking up, Jiang Ruan could have been married into the Eighth Prince fu. If he had greater power and authority, he would surely not allow people to influence Jiang Ruan’s future so easily.
Thinking of this, he strengthened his resolve to attack the Tianjin kingdom this time. Only, when he thought about Jiang Ruan being alone in the Jiang fu for three years, his heart was gripped with anxiety.
His face became a little sombre.
On leaving the Guan fu, Jiang Xin Zhi planned to return to the Jiang fu and wait for Jiang Ruan’s return so they could discuss this matter. He had just reached Guan fu’s main door when he heard a delicate, timid female voice say, “Jiang Daren.”
Jiang Xin Zhi was startled. He followed the direction of the sound and saw a delicate and beautiful young lady with two maidservants behind her. From her appearance, she must have been a young miss from one of the rich families. He thought she seemed familiar and was momentarily puzzled.
When the young lady saw Jiang Xin Zhi staring at her, her cheeks immediately reddened. She hesitated for a while, then took two steps forward and said, “Last night Daren saved my life, I . . .I would like to personally express my grat.i.tude to Daren.”
Jiang Xin Zhi frowned slightly as he thought back. Last night he had indeed pulled aside this young lady, but he had rescued so many people and everything had been so chaotic, so he had forgotten about her.
The young lady noticed that Jiang Xin Zhi did not seem to remember her, and disappointment briefly showed in her eyes. After a while, she smiled and said, “My father is the Capital Magistrate of the capital city, and he would like to invite Daren to the fu so he can express his grat.i.tude.”
Jiang Xin Zhi only smiled slightly. Now that he had entered the imperial court, he could see with his own eyes the steps he could take to rise and expand his influence. How many court officials had become restless? After that short period of observation from the sidelines the previous night, had their intentions started to form? Was this a move to entice him? Although Jiang Xin Zhi was a military leader, he had been born in a family whose members had served as civilian court officials for generations, so he was not completely clueless about how people were recruited to form factions within the imperial court, and he also understood the principle that a wise man should always watch his back. At present, his foundation at court was not stable, and the compet.i.tion between the princes to be preeminent was intense; he was naturally not so foolish as to involve himself.
The slight smile that unconsciously appeared on his face made him look refined and handsome and Dong Yinger’s face felt hot when she saw it. Jiang Xin Zhi said, courteously, “It was simply a matter of little effort, Miss does not need to dwell on it. There are still some things that I need to take care of, and so I will take my leave first.”
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Having said this, he did not wait for Dong Yinger’s reply, but quickly mounted his horse and left.
Jiang Ruan nodded. “What about Fourth Younger Sister?”
“Fourth Miss . . .” Lian Qiao said, in a somewhat mysterious tone, “That person from the Zuo Langzhong fu has come a few times, and seems to be a good person. He definitely wants to take responsibility for Fourth Miss, and said he would send the marriage geng tie in a few days, but . . .”
Jiang Ruan raised her eyebrows and waited for her to continue speaking. As expected, Lian Qiao said, “When Third Miss found out about it, she went off to look for Second Yiniang without a word. Second Yiniang then went to look for Master, and later, Master called Fourth Miss into his study and spoke with her for a while. When Fourth Miss left the study, her face was chalk white. After that, Lu Zhu went to ask around, and Miss, guess what?”
Jiang Ruan smiled faintly and said, “Third Younger Sister wants to be subst.i.tuted for Fourth Younger Sister?”
 李代桃僵 (li dai tao jiang) – lit. the plum tree withers in place of the peach tree; fig. to subst.i.tute one thing for another.
“How did Miss know?” Lian Qiao said in amazement. She continued, “That’s exactly what happened! It’s not certain what Second Yiniang said to Master, but Master changed his mind, and although it was supposed to be Fourth Miss’ geng tie sent over, now it has been changed to be Third Miss’ geng tie.”
“Will Zuo Langzhong agree to this?” Jiang Ruan leaned back against the soft padding of the horse carriage, unhurriedly drinking her tea.
“Zuo Langzhong does not know about this situation. From the sound of what Second Yiniang intended, once the marriage has taken place and the ancestors have been paid respects to, there’s nothing Zuo Langzhong can do. At that time, Master will personally talk to Zuo Langzhong, and the matter will probably be dropped”
Bai Zhi also exclaimed, “Fourth Miss is really too pitiful.”
On the contrary, Jiang Ruan did not consider Jiang Dan as one to be pitied. The previous night, since Jiang Dan had already had a scheme in mind involving Zuo Langzhong, she must have planned her scheme much earlier. Both were born of concubines, but Jiang Li was not resigned to the fact that Jiang Dan would be married off so well. Furthermore, between Jiang Li and Jiang Dan, Jiang Quan was definitely more biased towards Jiang Li. To that end, while it was unknown what Second Yiniang and Jiang Quan had discussed, the result must have involved some sort of benefits for Jiang Quan.
Lian Qiao also commented, “With how Third Miss has s.n.a.t.c.hed up Fourth Miss’ marriage in this way, although it seems insincere, the Zuo Langzhong family is extremely good. Therefore, in the future she will definitely live much better than Fourth Miss. Even though Fourth Miss has been pacified by Master, I am afraid that she still feels disgusted.”
Jiang Ruan shook her head, “Wrong. In the end, Jiang Li may not live better than Jiang Dan.”
Bai Zhi puzzled, “Why do you say so, Miss?”
“Wait and see. In a few years’ time one will understand.”
Who was Jiang Dan? Jiang Dan wasn’t someone who would swallow it silently after being wronged. If Jiang Quan thought that Jiang Dan was within his grasp to manipulate, then he was indeed gravely mistaken. It can not be denied that Jiang Li had already buried a shadow of hatred in Jiang Dan’s heart. Thus, she had become like a poisonous snake hibernating in the dark, just waiting for an opportunity to strike out with her poisonous venom to kill all of her foes, without any reservations and showing no mercy,
One feared that ahead of her, Jiang Li would be suffering many trials and tribulations.
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