During these past two days of interactions, Old Madame Sheng felt that this ineloquent little granddaughter of hers was a really clever person. She wasn’t like Hualan who could reason with words and also unlike Molan who was perceptive and tactful. Merely silly-looking but there was an inherent charm unexplainable by words. Her childlike words, seem to be nothing out of the ordinary but were very earnest and her face full of seriousness, gave off a hilarious impression.
After a morning of labouring and taxing both physical and mental faculties, Old Madame Sheng’s appetite during lunch increased, taking advantage of her good mood she had an extra bowl of rice. Minglan in order to express her willingness to grow more flesh for her new boss also spared no effort to inhale the entire bowl of rice. The appearance of a plate of glazed and tender red stewed meat looked so delicious and inviting that the grandparent and grandchild, both worked as one to take it down. Mama Fang watched stunned and secretly instructed Cuiping to prepare two portions of pickled orange peel and plum infused medicinal tea to aid with digestion.
After the meal, the grandparent and grandchild both flopped on a pair of wide black sandalwood chairs engraved with patterns of happiness and longevity stationed by the window. They decided to take an afternoon nap after digesting the food. Currently it was nearing the end of winter, ice slowly disappearing and snow melting. The afternoon sunshine was warm, Minglan had sunbathed till she was warm and toasted, like a little a furry little kitten she huddled on the brocade padded chair in deep slumber. Eating her fill during lunch, the little child’s red and soft flesh gave a satisfying purr. The Old Madame watched her little granddaughter whose eyes were gradually drooping and asked “… Ming’er, do you think your Fourth Older Sister was really sick?”
This question was a little mysterious.
Minglan was drowsy and after listening to the question, she tried to crack her eyes open a little. Her expression blank and she incoherently said “No… no idea. I initially thought Fourth Older Sister was angry and embarrassed and that was why she pretended to be sick and refused to come. Every time Master checks on Fifth Older Sister’s homework, she would pretend to be sick. But looking at Fourth Older Sister today, I felt that she was genuinely sick.”
The Old Madame heard this truth and she smiled slightly. Looking at that pair of bright big eyes she combed up the loose hair, touching the round little buns on her head. “What if your Fourth Older Sister was really pretending? Should we punish her?”
Minglan inched nearer to her Grandmother’s warm palms and shook her head. Stretching forth that pair of tiny white jade claws, tugging on the Old Madame’s sleeves she softly said “Being unable to come to Old Madame’s place, even if Fourth Older Sister did not fall sick, her heart must be feeling terrible. It is certainly not appropriate but it cannot be considered pretending to be sick. A little while ago, Big Sister escorted me to kick the shuttlecock everyday, then, I actually had to pretend to be sick!”
Minglan actually rather sympathised with Molan. She guessed that when Concubine Lin was favoured, she would often throw this kind of tantrum. Thus when Molan was rejected, Concubine Lin’s immediate reaction was to show an attitude of defiance to Old Madame. Unfortunately, this time she ran head first into the muzzle.
One must remember, ever since Sheng Hong was promoted to Deng Prefecture, he had already determined to straighten up family principles. He is indeed fond of Concubine Lin and her children and is willing to favour them however, what he prefers more is his family’s clan and social status. Firstly, Old Madame had just rejected Molan and Concubine Lin immediately made both son and daughter pretend to be sick and not pay respects. This was clearly an act of lowering the honour of Old Madame and was also sending a message to the whole Sheng household claiming that Concubine Lin still has a firm back.
So the Old Madame quickly struck back and forced Sheng Hong to make a decision between pampering Concubine Lin and the family’s decorum. With filial piety as priority, Sheng Hong chose the latter without the slightest hesitation. It is akin to buying stocks, you cannot simply look at the company’s operational status, you need to also consider the national situation. The current situation in the Sheng household is that Sheng Hong is willing to protect Concubine Lin but Concubine Lin must adhere to the rules and etiquette of being a concubine.
Old Madame felt that this little granddaughter understood the situation and was slightly shocked. She warmly asked “Then Ming’er, where do you feel your Fourth Older Sister had erred in?”
Minglan swayed her little head and said with a smile “To let a child come over to Old Madame’s side is for us to show filial piety and also for the Old Madame’s happiness. Fourth Older Sister should not have pretended to be sick and worry you when her desires were not fulfilled.”
Old Madame smiled in satisfaction and carried Minglan to sit on her lap and touched her small face “My Sixth Girl, you have said it well. One must know, learning words and feminine arts at Grandmother’s place are all secondary, primarily you should learn to be sensible and knowledgeable. Living upon this earth, inevitably there will be likes and dislikes. What belongs to you is yours and that is which not, you shouldn’t force. One must be appreciative and follow fate, and not unscrupulously demand your desires……”
The Old Madame saw that her little granddaughter had a foolish look, expressing that she seems to understand but still did not understand at the same time. She felt that her words were too profound and did not continue, asking Mama Cui to come carry Minglan into Lihua Cabinet for an afternoon nap.
In truth, Minglan understood everything, it would seem Old Madame Sheng was rather miserable. When she first adopted Concubine Lin, she originally thought to raise a noble and demure Lin Daiyu but did not expect to have raised a fearless Second Sister You instead. Her schemes were deep and fighting spirit was abundant, singlehandedly turning the whole Sheng household into a complete mess and the root cause for all of this was because of one word, ‘greed’. Now she is raising a concubine-born daughter, if Minglan were to become arrogant because she was raised by the Old Madame and had desires that she ought not have, then it would be detrimental to her. Therefore the Old Madame was preparing for a rainy day.
Lying on the warm bed, Minglan let out a small sigh. Old Madame Sheng need not worry, from the day she accepted this identity, she had been thinking of her own future. Obviously it was a very typical ancient world with strict hierarchy and definite feudalistic rules, not one bit like the YY social environment.1 She cannot abandon the family to become a ronin swordswoman and also cannot indulge in the fantasy to become an independant entrepreneur, even more so she dare not imagine eking out a living in the palace. The only thing she could do is to manage her own life well.
Humanity’s happiness is measured through comparison. If the people around you are in a worse state than you are, even if you were eating the shells and choked on vegetables you would still feel very happy. The reason why concubine-born daughters usually suffer is because the legitimate-born sisters with whom they grew up with will oftentimes have better lives. Seeing the sisters whom you grew up alongside from same father excel more than you in all areas, it would inevitably invite unhappiness into their hearts.
But, so what if you do not compare with a legitimate-born daughter? Minglan inwardly shrugged. She guessed that if she were born to a poverty-stricken peasant family, or even worse born to servant family that had absolutely no freedom, in comparison to them, her situation was a lot better. The current lifestyle allowed her to at least not worry about food and clothing and they were even considered to be slightly wealthy. Father is also not a good-for-nothing merchant that would randomly marry his daughters away, the family in general is still considered to be well-off.
In ancient times, the life of a girl like her was to ride on a good track. Growing up according to the norms for concubine-born daughters, marrying a husband of the same status, giving birth and growing old. Other than not being able to divorce and accepting the high possibility of accepting several ‘younger sisters’ to share her husband’s bed, there was not a huge distinction with modern times. Sometimes, Minglan would hopelessly think ‘This wasn’t too bad after all’.
However, if life was not as she had wished for and the heavens were determined to give her a miserable life. Humph! Then it is a life for a head. When she reaches the end of her road, she also would not be polite. If she does not live well, she also would not allow those who mistreat her to have an easy life. When the time comes, a clear knife enters a red one exists. If worst comes to worst, either the fish dies or the net splits.2 What does she have to be afraid of! She was the very person who was buried alive under a landslide!
Reaching this conclusion, Minglan’s heart instantly cleared. She rolled onto her little belly and entered a deep deep sleep.
1. Two possibilities: 1. YY would refer to Generation Y; 2. YY is a China Social Networking Site, but either the idea behind it is comparing modern times to the ancient times
2. These are all Chinese idioms: a life for a head – an eye for an eye, a clear knife enters a red one exits – bloodthirsty or ruthless, the fish dies or the net spills – either you die or I die.
Even Old Madame Sheng can see through all the lame tricks of Molan. The life of a woman in ancient times is really not a bed of roses. Next up, the person that Wang shi is waiting for has come!
This is it. Thank Eers for being ever so patient in editing and filtering my work. Wishing you guys a blessed Christmas and a good new year! Minglan will return in the new year.