Chapter 69 : A Marriage Alliance (Part II)
"Eldest Young Miss truly thinks that qieshen has that right to be the mistress of the Jiang fu?" Hong Ying could hear the faint tremor in her voice.
Smiling as she took a sip from the teacup before her, Jiang Ruan pursed her lips shallowly, "Why not?"
Hong Ying stared at her and suddenly revealed a smile, "With Eldest Young Miss speaking this highly of qieshen, qieshen does not know what to do. Truthfully, even if Eldest Young Miss had not come to find qieshen today, qieshen would have definitely gone to meet Eldest Young Miss before too long."
Jiang Ruan smiled lightly as she looked at her and Hong Ying continued, "Qieshen was casually chatting with Laoye yesterday. Laoye had brought up the matter about the Li family's father and son. Eldest Young Miss is also all too aware of the matter between Eldest Young Master of the Li family and Second Young Miss. With Eldest Young Master Li like this now, Grand Councillor Li will probably not be able to tolerate Second Young Miss; yet Laoye does not want to shed all pretence of cordiality with Grand Councillor Li and thus, was then thinking of having Eldest Young Miss take the place of Second Young Miss to marry into the Li family." After saying this, she cautiously observed Jiang Ruan's expression. Yet all she saw was that bright and gorgeous countenance, the expression remained unchanged; the smile on the edge of her lips stayed the same as if one had put on an absolutely perfect mask.
Jiang Ruan lightly sighed, "With Father loving Second Sister this dearly, it really makes me feel envious."
Upon seeing this, Hong Ying remarked, "Qieshen's heart is anxious as well, this was clearly a matter stirred up by Second Young Miss, so how could one have Eldest Young Miss compensate for their loss instead? Moreover, that Eldest Young Master of the Li family presently could be considered a useless person. If Eldest Young Miss was truly to marry over, then Miss might not be able to bear the inevitable suffering."
Jiang Ruan muttered to herself for a short moment before she shot a smile towards Hong Ying, "Thank you Fifth Yiniang for your counsel, only, this is Father's decision. I too am unable to interfere with it if he truly has decided upon such intentions, therefore, Ruan niang too can only accept as the daughter of the Jiang family."
Hong Ying was flabbergasted for a moment, "Eldest Young Miss is willing to be married over?"
"I may consent, Father may consent, however, who knows if Li daren would?" Jiang Ruan smiled lightly as she stood up, "It has already been a while, I ought to return." Pausing for a second, her gaze fell on the embroidered thing on the table with a light laugh, "Father loves Fifth Yiniang dearly, it is good for Fifth Yiniang to show such care for Father as well. However, Ruan niang would still like to remind Fifth Yiniang of a phrase: if there is no heir, then Fifth Yiniang would, in fact, be the same as Eldest and Second Yiniang." With a smile, she continued to finish up on her statement, "Even if there were heirs, without any status or position, the fate of all the yiniangs and their children would be the same."
After Jiang Ruan had been gone for a long time, Hong Ying still remained rooted to that same spot, lost in thought. Seeing this, the maidservant standing beside her questioned gently and cautiously, "Yiniang?"
Waving her hand, Hong Ying's expression was filled with weariness as she replied in a low voice, "After all is said and done, what does Eldest Young Miss plan on doing?"
* * *
In the capital, at Jinying w.a.n.g fu, Ye Feng stood before the desk as he spoke, "We have received news from General Guan, they will be withdrawing troops from the front lines next month and return to the capital." Pausing, he then continued, "Today, this subordinate was on duty and heard others discuss that someone has been unconstrained in buying up all of the remaining grain in the capital. One feared that this had something to do with his Eighth Highness and took note to ask around a little; apparently, this was the doings of the maidservant of Eldest Young Miss of the Jiang family." He frowned, "However, one does not know what is the purpose of doing this."
Turning around, Xiao Shao's heroically spirited eyebrows were slightly raised as they augmented that elegantly handsome face of his, making it seem several degrees more stern and austere. He spoke, "Continue to make some inquiries. Pay attention to the movements of Li Dong's fu."
 Yīngqì de méi ( 英气的眉 ) – This is a phrase that gets lost in translation; a commonly used phrase to describe both men and women's eyebrows, it refers to angular shaped eyebrows that are basically in the shape of a sword's blade. Here is a visual ill.u.s.tration of 'heroically spirited eyebrows'.
"Grand Councillor Li?" Ye Feng was startled, "Master is planning to deal with him ahead of time?"
Xiao Shao shook his head, "The Li family's eldest son is already at death's door, and while this matter has something to do with the Jiang family, they do not want to incur the wrath of the Li family. If my a.s.sumption is not wrong, Jiang Quan will definitely take some action."
Ye Feng pondered, "Behind the Jiang family is the Xia family and the Xia family is also part of Eighth Prince's faction, so perhaps, Eighth Prince will personally step in." After all, both the Xia and Li family were rare resources, thus Xuan Li would definitely not let this slip by him in vain.
He suddenly chuckled, "One is truly unaware; once Eighth Prince is aware of the nest of internal conflict between his subordinates under his control, what kind of mood would he be in. In short, it is truly great that the Li family's eldest son has met with misfortune. Second Young Lady of the Jiang family has done such a great deed too; in any event for her to have neutered Li Yang like this, the Li and Jiang family would definitely have enmity between them."
Xiao Shao did not correct Ye Feng's words and recalled that very night, how Jiang Ruan had unflinchingly used the porcelain fragment to cut that plaything of Li Yang's so nimbly. She was clearly a young lady in the boudoir, yet did not have the slightest bit of shyness or embarra.s.sment from seeing a man's genitals. In her gaze, there was only the cold stare of indifference. The gaze she had used to look at Li Yang was as if she had seen a d.a.m.ned pig waiting to be slaughtered.
Ever since he was ten years old, he had accepted a role in the Jin Yi Guards, and had taken b.l.o.o.d.y steps to move up in strength. Were it not for the fact that he had seen this in person, he really would not believe that a young lady from the boudoir could possess a gaze similar to a murderer.
 Jin yi wei (锦衣卫) – Also known as another t.i.tle 锦衣卫指挥使司 or literally brocade-clad guards, it is the appellation of the imperial secret police that served Emperors of the Ming dynasty in China. It was founded to serve as personal bodyguards in the past for the Hongwu Emperor in 1368 but eventually became an imperial military body. These guards don a distinctive golden-yellow uniform with a tablet worn on his torso and carry a special blade weapon as a form of recognition.
This eldest daughter of Jiang Quan's, how exactly was she raised?
A moment later, Xiao Shao moved on from his stray thoughts and remarked, "I will take a trip to enter the palace."
* * *
In the northern side of the capital, there was an incessant sound of firecrackers at the gate of a large three-entrance courtyard residence. In front of its vermillion gate pillars, there were two lions that were baring fangs and brandishing claws, and on the top there was a shining gold plaque, bound with some red flowers and etched with two large words: Liu fu.
 Sān jìn dà zhái (三进大宅) – A three-entrance courtyard residence, this phrase refers to a 'Siheyuan', a quadrangle compound that conforms with the symmetry of the north and south axis; the main house is on the central north-south axis, and the less-important structures are positioned on the west and east sides. These structures date from the 1045 -770 BC and have over 2000 years of history. They are a cultural symbol of Chinese traditional architecture. Based on the structural arrangement, every residence varies based on the size of the area that it is built-in and is often built based on the owner's status. Depending on the arrangements, a courtyard may vary from two to five entrances. In general, a standard four-section rectangular compound leans to the north and faces south with an alleyway running from the east to west beside it.
A residence of a wealthy merchant can span up to 6 major courtyards, 20 smaller courtyards and 313 rooms. Here is an ill.u.s.tration of what a siheyuan looks like and is often a reflection of how the women in the boudoir live an extremely sheltered and restrained life, often not being able to even leave for the outer courtyard. It is also a reflection of how the wealthy aristocratic society lived in comparison to the commoners in the past. More information can be found
 Zhāng yá wǔ zhǎo (张牙舞爪) – This means to make threatening gestures.
This was the official residence that the Emperor had conferred to the top-scoring youth in the palace examination.
Liu furen was only a few years more than thirty, yet her face carried the pallor of one who had experienced the hardships of life. The hair at her temples was already full of spots of white, as if she was fifty. Even so, she still wore a plain cyan straight qipao that had been embroidered with lotuses. Her hair was combed without even the slightest hair out of place and with a wide smile on her face, she gave out a little reward money to everyone.
The four servant girls conferred by the Emperor were all full of smiles as they stood at the side. Many people had expressed their congratulations while receiving a monetary reward. Among them, there was no lack of their former neighbours. With this, Liu Min had become the carp who had leapt and transformed at the mystical dragon gate into a dragon. Henceforth, the Liu family had thus brought honour to their ancestors.
After giving away all of the monetary reward, Liu furen asked the servant girl beside her, "Why has Min'er not come out yet?"
The servant girl smiled in reply, "Perhaps he is in the room tidying, this servant will go to urge him." After saying this, she turned around and left.
In the study, Liu Min was spellbound while looking at a painting hung on the wall.
The residence that had been bestowed by the Emperor was s.p.a.cious, abundant and beautiful, the study being at least twice the size of the previous one he had. Henceforth, he would certainly have ample s.p.a.ce to stack up all those books of his. Yet to have arrived at this point, in the depth of his heart, he was somewhat dazzled. All of this, was this what he truly wanted?
A few days ago, while he was at the Imperial Academy's student residences, he had had something pilfered; what he had lost was the very letter that that mysterious person had sent him. Those letters of his had all disappeared without trace; as if they had never existed in the first place. Liu Min had asked the study attendant, and he had stated being unaware of it. However, as it happened, none of his other belongings were missing. He could not help but suspect that these letters had been taken away by that mysterious person themselves.
 Shū tóng (书童) – this refers to the male servant (who was a minor) from the family that attended school with his master and his other younger siblings.
If it were not for this painting of the light of the fireflies in the moonlight before him, Liu Min would have almost thought that these days had been merely an illusion and that mysterious person was simply a character that his subconsciousness had made up.
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He closely scrutinized the painting before him, the lines in the drawing were elegant, confident and free; it truly showed off one's ability. Liu Min could not help but speculate, what kind of person could they be? After getting used to having another person to discuss with him some lines to debate about from a book, now that this very person had suddenly vanished, it made him feel somewhat lonely.
With a disgusted glimpse at the advisor who had been kneeling beneath him, Xuan Li maintained his mild tone, "I do not blame you, even after getting along with Father Emperor for these many years, I too have not been able to ascertain what he has been thinking in his heart either."
The advisor thought for a while and then remarked, "In fact, if Your Highness wants to consolidate power, there is still a method: it would be better to connect by marriage with the Jiang family."
Xuan Li arched an eyebrow, "The Jiang family?"
The advisor cupped his hands in salute, "Now, what Your Highness needs the most is nothing else but the power and influence of the Xia and the Li family. Your Highness' having a connection with the Xia family is too evident, but if it is a connection with the Jiang family, then that would be tantamount to roping the Xia family in as well." He paused for a while before he continued, "Moreover, now with the Young Miss of the Jiang family still being quite young, it may be good to first fix a marriage. Someday in the future, if there are any changes in the variables, even then it won't be too late to change your mind."
Xuan Li frowned, thinking of the rumours in the capital a few days ago that the Jiang furen had hired an a.s.sa.s.sin to frame Eldest Young Lady but instead through hearsay, had entrapped Second Young Lady instead. In addition to that, there was the matter at Bai Hua Lou where Jiang Chao had staked a thousand pieces of gold on one throw yet had no money to settle the account and finally, had one little finger chopped off.
 Yī zhì qiān jīn (一掷千金) – It means to throw away money recklessly or to be extravagant.
Unhappily, he remarked, "The Jiang fu is in a turmoil. Besides, that Second Young Lady of the Jiang fu now has a bad reputation, how could I possibly marry her? Wouldn't this be inviting everyone under the heavens to make a mockery of it?"
"Your Highness," the advisor replied, "isn't there still an eldest young lady in the Jiang fu? This eldest young lady's biological mother is indeed a member of General Zhao's fu. Although it may only be in name, if Your Highness were to marry Eldest Young Lady of the Jiang family, not only with the Jiang fu, there would be a relation with the Xia fu and perhaps, Your Highness could even build up a connection with General Zhao's fu."
"Zhao Guang, that coa.r.s.e fellow," Xuan Li answered, "has always been a part of the Crown Prince's faction, he would not easily defect." As for Jiang Ruan, a memory of that night at the Lantern Festival had surfaced in his mind- on that large boat, the indifferent smile on that red-clad young lady's face. Unexpectedly, there was a tight grip in his heart, resembling a feeling of caring a great deal about this.
"Now, it seems that the best solution is to connect via marriage." The advisor still suggested this, "if Your Highness was to agree to a marriage with the young lady of the Jiang family, then at Grand Councillor Li's end, even if in some way he is discontented, he would not act blindly without thinking either. If Your Highness spared no effort like this to show grace and favour to the Jiang family, then the Jiang and the Xia family would strive their hardest to a.s.sist Your Highness too."
"What you have said is not wrong either." Once more, Xuan Li picked up the letter on the desk, "Perhaps I should solemnly consider your words." In the letter, it was an invitation to Xuan Li to go to Marquis Xia's fu to attend a gathering. He thought for a while and continued, "Someone, come over. Reply on my behalf to the old gentleman, Marquis Xia, and send a message that I have received the old Marquis gentleman's invitation. In three days' time, I will pay a visit and call on his home."
* * *
When Old Marquis Xia received the communicated message from the attendant at Xuan Li's side, he heaved a sigh of relief. Xia Furen looked at him and urged, "What is the matter? Has Eighth Prince responded positively?"
"He has," Old Marquis Xia answered her, "go send a letter to the Jiang fu and ask Yan'er to get ready and prepare Su'er and Chao'er, then bring them over." Pausing, he then continued, "Tell her to bring that Jiang Ruan along as well."
Xia Furen nodded, "Naturally, since she caused Su Su to ruin her looks, then this Jiang Ruan indeed has some ability."
The eyes of Old Marquis Xia were completely clouded, "I have yet to tell this matter to his Eighth Highness, however, Eighth Highness must have a.s.sumed that this matter was the doing of Fifth Prince and so would have some misgivings. Therefore, he has decided to involve my Xia fu and rope in some relation with my fu. Although it is so, nevertheless, it would be disastrous to keep Jiang Ruan around. Yan'er has repeatedly met losses and miscalculations in her hands; rather, I would truly like to see what kind of demon this person is, to be this ruthless at such a young age!"
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Translated by : Irisu
Edited by : Anks & Ely
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