Chapter 140 : The Xia Family in Chaos
Trigger Warning: domestic violence.
After the Golden Chrysanthemum Banquet, everything seemed to return to a state of tranquility. However, on that day, Jiang Su Su did not return in Yao-shi’s carriage, only saying that some n.o.ble family’s son had offered her his carriage and was determined to send Jiang Su Su back to Jiang fu. For whatever reason, Jiang Su Su had agreed. Only, what people were mostly talking about was the two madams of the Xia family.
In the carriage on the way back to Jiang fu, after Yao-shi learned about the heart of the matter from Zhao Feizhou, she thanked Jiang Ruan once again. Yet, there was still a note of bafflement in her voice as she asked, “Where did those two maidservants go?”
Until the very end, neither Yu Ya’s personal maidservant nor the maidservant who had turned informant could be found anywhere. To this Jiang Ruan replied, “The informant was my person. As for the personal maidservant of Second Madame Xia, she has been sent to the rural residence, and arrangements will be made to move her out of the capital within a few days.”
Yao-shi nodded and felt more at peace. However, Zhao Yulong was not entirely convinced. Jiang Ruan had always done things neatly and efficiently, and would never leave any loose ends which could be used against her. To keep this maidservant of Yu Ya’s alive would be too much of a lurking threat. Since Jiang Ruan was so ruthless how could she so easily keep this possible menace close by? However, her words had always consisted of half-truths and ambiguity, and Zhao Yulong did not have any proof. Thus, all he could do was to make a note to himself to consider this matter further later.
It seemed as though Jiang Quan had not yet returned by the time they reached the fu. However, all the womenfolk looked at Jiang Ruan with different eyes. An old servant who was a little more courageous than the others even pulled Lu Zhu to one side to ask, softly, “Eldest Miss Xia is really the daughter of Second Master Xia?”
Lu Zhu answered with a few perfunctory words before returning to Ruan Ju with Jiang Ruan. Once there, she closed the door firmly. Lian Qiao and Bai Zhi came forth to greet them, and Lian Qiao, in her usual straightforward manner, reported on everything at once. “Miss, the news of the scandal within the Xia family has now spread to every corner of the capital. Master also knows of it. He encountered Second Miss at the gate when she returned to the fu, and he had only spoken a few words before they started to argue. Second Miss is right now in her courtyard reflecting on her errors, and Master left the fu in a rage.”
Jiang Ruan raised her eyebrows. At present, with such a big hullabaloo in the Xia family, it was inevitable that Jiang fu would also be closely watched by the common people as they were related by marriage. What’s more, Jiang Su Su, for some reason as yet unknown, had returned home in a carriage belonging to the young scion of some wealthy family. Wasn’t that simply handing the people additional fodder for gossip? The people would say that this propensity for ill behaviour ran deep in the bones of the Xia family. In doing this, Jiang Su Su was ensuring that Jiang fu would be tossed into the fire together with her. Moreover, although Jiang fu no longer glittered as brightly as it had in the past, how could they stand people talking about and poking fun at them? Although Jiang Quan loved Jiang Su Su dearly, his anger was an inevitable outcome.
Bai Zhi said, “Nowadays, the Xia family can be said to have blackened its name, and I’m afraid Eldest Miss Xia will have her name expunged from the list of imperial concubine candidates.”
Because she was a child that was conceived from her mother and uncle’s affair, Eldest Miss Xia was no longer considered pure, and so naturally could not enter the palace as an imperial concubine. Jiang Ruan looked down. In her previous life, Xia Jiao Jiao had been totally doted on in the palace due to the quiet support of Xia Cheng. However, even though they had been meiren of the same status, the lives she and Xia Jiao Jiao had led had been as different as chalk and cheese. Despite being no threat, Xia Jiao Jiao would still seek her out every few days or so to cause trouble. This Eldest Miss Xia, who thought herself a matchless beauty from a n.o.ble family, had now discovered that she was nothing but a hated sp.a.w.n. Could there be a more drastic fall?
 金枝玉叶 (jīnzhīyùyè) – golden branch, jade leaves (idiom); fig. blue-blooded n.o.bility, esp. imperial kinsmen or peerless beauty.
* * *
In Marquis Xia fu, Shen Rou and Xia Tian Cai were both kneeling on the ground. His face ashen, Xia Tian Yi kicked Shen Rou violently and shouted, “s.l.u.t!” His eyes were also full of rancour as they glared at Xia Tian Cai.
Xia Cheng was holding the long whip which was used to enforce discipline in the family. The jet-black, shiny whip was incredibly thick and st.u.r.dy, and it was exceptionally sound as it had been soaked in a concoction for many years. When used, it would land on a person’s body with a loud, ‘pa, pa’. And so, after the occurrence of each sound, one more b.l.o.o.d.y line would appear on Shen Rou’s tender and delicate skin.
“Please stop, please stop,” Shen Rou wailed. Her clothes had long been ripped to shreds by the lash of the whip, and her usually pale, tender flesh was now covered in b.l.o.o.d.y scars. There was nothing to be seen of her usual beauty, and anyone looking at her now would feel sick. Gasping for breath, Xia Cheng lowered the whip. He had just administered more than ten lashes, and was feeling the strain of the effort he had put into it.
Xia Tian Cai had been on intimate terms with Shen Rou for so many years, so when he saw her suffering, his protective instinct caused him to say to Xia Cheng, “Father, this has nothing to do with Rou’er, it’s all this son’s fault. Please don’t whip Rou’er any more!”
It would have been better not to say anything. On hearing these words, Xia Cheng grew even more enraged. On thinking of how this useless son, who could not make anything of himself, had turned the Xia family into the laughingstock of the year together with this eldest daughter-in-law, due to an offense to common decency, he wished that he had never had such a son like Xia Tian Cai. Immediately, he swung the whip and lashed out towards Xia Tian Cai.
“Laoye, don’t!” A cry of alarm sounded from the side and Xia Furen threw herself towards them. She gripped Xia Cheng’s arm with one hand and said, “Tian Cai is your son, how can you bear to whip him? It’s all this woman’s fault, she seduced Tian Cai. If anything should happen to Tian Cai today, I won’t be able to live. If you want to whip him, then whip me as well!”
Xia Tian Yi’s personality was stiff and harsh, and he was not as adaptable and quick-witted as Xia Tian Cai, who was an old hand at sweeping people off their feet with a mouthful of pretty words. Xia Tian Cai was usually able to coax Xia Furen into submission, and she most loved this second son of hers. Even though she was angry and grieved that Xia Tian Cai had acted so disgracefully, the moment she saw him being whipped, she grew anxious and rushed to protect him.
On seeing this, Xia Cheng’s fury swelled. “Doting mothers spoil their children! Doting mothers spoil their children!”
Yu Ya, who had been quietly standing to one side watching the show, immediately felt a sense of dissatisfaction on seeing Xia Tian Cai defending Shen Rou. She was nothing but a cheap s.l.u.t, but even when the situation had reached this state, Xia Tian Cai still had pity on her. If only Xia Cheng had whipped Shen Rou to death.
Xia Tian Yi was also seething at what his own younger brother had done. When those whose dispositions are normally gloomy and inflexible are infected with bitter resentment, it is to an extent that people cannot imagine.
Yu Ya said in a mournful tone, “It’s all very well for Mother to say this, but isn’t this too unfair towards Eldest Brother-in-law? Eldest Brother-in-law has been wronged, yet has anyone asked him for his opinion?”
Xia Furen was at a loss for words while Xia Cheng glanced at his eldest son somewhat apologetically. Leaving aside the impact of this situation on the family of the second son, with respect to the family of the eldest son, where Xia Tian Yi was concerned, it was like a fatal deluge. The wife he had loved for so many years had in actuality been making him wear a ‘green hat’ for all of those years, and the adulterer in question was his own younger brother. What’s more, he had been bringing up someone else’s daughter the whole time. Of all possible behaviours, nothing else brought a man more shame and humiliation, and if Xia Cheng had been in his place, he would have already cut down the cheating couple with his sword out of sheer rage.
 二房 (er fang) – lit. second room/ house i.e. the family/ descendants of the second son, or the family of the concubine;
 大房 (da fang) – lit. biggest/ eldest room/ house i.e. the family/ descendants of the eldest son; could also refer to the main/ legal wife.
 狗男女 (gou nan nu) – lit. dog man and woman
Although Xia Tian Yi was not as outstanding as Xia Tian Cai and did what he had to do without much flair, he was dependable, and had never given Xia Cheng any cause for grief even from childhood. The only thing Xia Cheng had not been satisfied with was Xia Tian Yi’s excessive doting on Shen Rou. Even though Shen Rou had only borne him a daughter, Xia Tian Yi had not taken a concubine. Apart from the two bed servants that had been taken in when Shen Rou’s body was weak at that time, Shen Rou’s status had not changed. And it was precisely this pampered wife who had made Xia Tan Yi wear such a big ‘green hat’; his state of mind and emotions at this point could clearly be imagined. Xia Cheng knew that he was wronging Xia Tian Yi by not allowing him to kill Xia Tian Cai, but this was something he absolutely could not permit. So, he could only lash out at Xia Tian Cai fiercely, in order to give Xia Tian Yi a small measure of revenge.
He was about to take action when the voice of a youthful girl sounded in the hall. “Mother! What’s happened to you?”
Xia Jiao Jiao had heard from the servants that her mother and Second Uncle were being whipped in the hall by Xia Cheng. At first, she had reckoned this as no more than the servants talking nonsense, for Shen Rou was highly favoured within the Xia family so there was no reason for her mother to be punished. However, a faint suspicion caused her to come and take a look, whereupon she was struck with paralysing terror. Shen Rou had been whipped until she was covered in blood, and lay on the ground on the brink of death. What is more, her father, who had always doted on Shen Rou, was standing to one side, cold and detached, with not a whit of tenderness in his expression.
On second glance, Xia Tian Cai was also completely devoid of his usual distinguished, confident and easy att.i.tude, but he was clearly much better off than Shen Rou’s injured state. He cut a sorry figure as he knelt on the ground, with several bloodied lines across his back. Xia Cheng held a whip, with an intense gaze that seemed to devour people. With fear in her heart, Xia Jiao Jiao ran quickly to Shen Rou’s side, crying as she said, “Mother, what’s happened to you?”
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Shen Rou weakly opened her eyes and saw her daughter. With great difficulty, she eked out, “. . . . Jiao Jiao, leave, quickly.”
* * *
When evening came, Yu Ya finally realized the meaning of Xia Cheng’s words.
As Xia Tian Cai was injured and Xia Furen doted on him, she ordered someone to boil medicine for his wounds and bring it to him, and made clear to Yu Ya that she was to look after Xia Tian Cai well. Although Yu Ya bore much resentment towards Xia Tian Cai, she still acknowledged him as her husband and treated him sincerely. Although she had been angry, she had witnessed both what had happened to Shen Rou, and Xia Jiao Jiao’s disfigurement. Thus, her anger had abated, and she felt much more at ease. As a result, when she brought the medicine to Xia Tian Cai’s bedside, she did so without any of her former temper, and was about to feed him the medicine personally.
She did not imagine that Xia Tian Cai would overturn the bowl of medicine in her hands with one swipe. Yu Ya was dumbfounded. Her anger spiked again and she screeched, “Xia Tian Cai!”
“B*tch!” Xia Tian Cai stared daggers at her.
Xia Tian Cai was an out-and-out womanizer with a face that was very attractive to women, as well as having a silver tongue. At home, although he had never given Yu Ya any special treatment, on the surface it appeared that the relationship between them was amiable. In addition he had never made such a fuss or uttered such harsh words like this.
“What are you talking about —” By nature, Yu Ya was impetuous, and unwilling to admit defeat. She immediately stood up and said, “Xia Tian Cai, you fooled around with your own sister-in-law, and you still have the gall to curse me? What right do you have to curse me?”
“Who are you putting on this n.o.ble and virtuous air for?” Xia Tian Cai laughed mockingly and said, “If you think that way, why don’t you look for Eldest Brother and see if he is willing to tumble in bed with you?”
“You, you, why are you so shameless —” Yu Ya said in shock.
“Humph.” Xia Tian Cai was highly dissatisfied with Yu Ya, and his words were bitingly malicious. “Didn’t you act like this today in order to thoroughly discredit Rou’er? Are you satisfied now? Yu Ya, to be honest, back then, if it wasn’t for your father and your dowry, I would have much rathered marry a prost.i.tute than you. There’s nothing good about you; you are neither gentle nor pleasant, and I feel sick having to look at your high and mighty appearance every day. You think that just because you gave birth to a son, you can run wild and abuse your status any way you like in the fu? I tell you, I don’t give a d.a.m.n about your son. In future, I can have many more sons, and in my heart, only Jiao Jiao is my daughter . . .”
“Xia Tian Cai, how can you say such things . . .” Yu Ya felt as if she had been struck by lightning. She had shared a bed with this man for so many years, and only now was she discovering, only now did she realize what her own husband had always been actually thinking.
“Do you really think Father won’t be angry that you’ve done something like this? What do you take Marquis Xia fu for, as some place you can mess with as you like?” Xia Tian Cai sneered as he said, “Since your status is that of Second Madame of the Xia family, you should obediently listen to me!”
It was only at this point that Yu Ya realised why Xia Cheng had given her such an odd look as he left just now, and what his final words had meant. Xia Cheng blamed her for exposing this situation and bringing disgrace to the Xia family. Xia Cheng was extremely resentful of her, and he would not take action to help her out of any predicaments in future. It was even likely that henceforth he would think of ways to make her life miserable. The Xia family itself had generated this kind of shameful situation, and instead of searching their own consciences, they were blaming her? Yu Ya simply wanted to laugh.
“You just stay in the fu, and atone for what you’ve done to Rou’er and Jiao Jiao,” declared Xia Tian Cai.
“Xia Tian Cai, you are not human —” Yu Ya screamed before she charged at Xia Tian Cai, full of hatred, and scratched his body and face wildly with both hands. Xia Tian Cai did not antic.i.p.ate that Yu Ya would be this shrewish and unrestrained beneath her external appearance, but even though he was injured, he was still a man, and immediately fought back with his greater strength. For a moment, the both of them were locked in a bitter embrace as each one struggled to gain the upper hand.
In the midst of this chaos, neither of them noticed that someone had pushed open the door a crack at some stage. Xia Jun stood silently by the door, impa.s.sively watching the melee within. That pair of gloomy eyes watching them unblinkingly was rather terrifying.
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