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The character list will be released after chapter 1 is published.
Edited by Larkspur
Chapter 1: The Daughter Returns (Part 1)
It was after the fifteenth day of the first lunar month in the twentieth year of Jian Xing. The New Year’s mood had disappeared, and each family and household had put their minds together to make living arrangements for the entire year. Those who were working for large households also quickly cleaned up and returned to their master’s family.
In the Residence of Marquis Chang Xing, a girl wearing a peach coloured Ruyi pattern top over an indigo pleated skirt with a double bun hairstyle, pushed the curtains open. The jovial smile that was previously seen stagnated upon seeing the approaching person.
But Qiu Ye was one that interacted in the inner courtyard, thus was able to quickly conceal her true reactions, and quickly greeted the oncoming person courteously and kindly.
“Fifth Young Lady, you are very early today. Quickly come in, it is cold outside!”
Chu Jin Yao did not enter immediately. She put up the appearance that she had secretly learned and gave Qiu Ye a greeting before straightening up, “Greetings to Older Sister Qiu Ye. Is Mother inside?”
Chu Jin Yao was a Young Lady after all. Even if Qiu Ye was the first ranked maid of Marquis Chang Xing’s Furen, there was truly no need to be this polite. Nodding her head to greet was actually enough.
But Chu Jin Yao did not know, and even if she knew, she would not know how to nod or how to greet. The things that were as natural as drinking water to the young ladies of the inner courtyard, were just too difficult for her.
In fact, Chu Jin Yao should be the Fourth Young Lady as the second daughter of the official wife, Madam Zhao, of the Residence of Marquis Chang Xing. However, her fate was somewhat bumpy. When she was just born, Tatars invaded the borders and Madam Zhao gave birth outside. The wrong daughter was carried back. That girl was brought back to the residence and given the name Chu Jin Miao. A few days ago, Chu Jin Yao was brought back. But Chu Jin Miao had stayed in the Marquis Residence for thirteen years and had a deep relationship with Mother and servants. ZhuMu, Old Chu Furen, also could not bear to send back the granddaughter that was doted upon for thirteen years. She then called the shots and allowed both young ladies to stay, with Chu Jin Miao continuing to be Fourth Young Lady and Chu Jin Yao lining up behind Chu Jin Miao, becoming Fifth Young Lady.
Chu Jin Yao grew up in a peasant family and did not have any knowledge of noble household etiquette. She feared being others’ joke and secretly observed how others behaved and spoke before figuring out herself and learned it. As such, she made many mistakes unknowingly, just like today’s greetings.
Qiu Ye accepted Chu Jin Yao’s greeting and returned a greeting before quickly welcoming Chu Jin Yao. As soon as the heavy marten rat curtain fell, it blocked the cold winds, the temperature of the main hall increased, and it was no longer filled with the cold wind. Qiu Ye exhaled before speaking, “The wind is sure strong today. If the curtains were opened for a long time, it might not matter to us but it would be bad if Furen felt cold.”
Chu Jin Yao did not expect it and quickly said, “I did not mean to. I did not expect…”
“Fifth Young Lady must not speak like so. You are the master and no matter how great the fault is, it is the servants and maids that did not serve well.” As Qiu Ye spoke, she scowled and looked at the people behind Chu Jin Yao, “You two hussies. Fifth Young Lady has just returned but did both of you just return too? If there is such negligence again, be careful of your skin!”
Ding Xiang and Shan Cha, who were standing behind Chu Jin Yao, quickly admitted their mistakes. Qiu Ye scolded a few more times before calming down, “All right. It is good that one can correct after making a mistake. You should be more attentive in your job!”
This time, even Chu Jin Yao heard that her behavior just now was inappropriate. Qiu Ye could not make a comment about her so she scolded the maids who followed her for the morning greetings.
Chu Jin Yao felt apologetic as she had implicated others. If she had done it a little better, how would others be scolded for her?
In fact, Chu Jin Yao’s current thoughts were still being held back by the previous household. In the big families of noble households, unmarried young ladies are precious nobility. If one were to commit an offense, the harshest punishment was confinement and copying Admonitions for Women. With regards to beating and other painful punishments, it was the servants below who would suffer from it because it was them that did not remind and plead the masters not to commit mistakes. Moreover, Ding Xiang and Shan Cha were not wronged at all. Chu Jin Yao was only found recently and she was not clear on how to greet or bow, but did these servants not know? They should have reminded before going out then such situation do not happen. But Ding Xiang was of a quiet persona and would not speak a single word when proded, whereas Shan Cha’s eyes kept wandering around. It can be seen that she had a big heart and would not think about such matters for her master.
Qiu Ye sighed in her heart but there was only so much she could do. By sounding them out with a layer between was already taken into consideration that she felt similar to Chu Jin Yao growing up in a farmer family and felt some pity. She too was from a farmer family and sold to the Marquis residence. Qiu Ye would not do anything more than that.
This was the reality of a noble household.
Zhang Mama came out of the Western room and spoke unhappily, “Who opened the curtains? Furen just woke up and still has sweat on her body. If Furen catches a cold, which one of you can be accountable for it?”
Qiu Ye bowed her head immediately to admit to it. Chu Jin Yao got frightened and quickly said, “It’s not Qiu Ye’s fault. I opened it when I came in.”
Zhang Mama had never seen a young lady confessing her mistakes that quickly. Usually, young ladies would have the people around them admit to the offence. Even though they were to make mistakes, they would not admit it themselves and by just a look, someone below would step up to take the blame, much less a fault that was not at all Chu Jin Yao’s at all. With Chu Jin Yao’s words, Zhang Mama could not continue on. Even though she was Furen’s dowry maid, she was a servant so how could she speak of the masters’ faults?
Zhang Mama could only change her expression and squeeze out a smile, “It turns out to be Fifth Young Lady that arrived. Fifth Young Lady arrived really early for greetings. Furen is inside doing her makeup. Please come in quickly.”
Chu Jin Yao thanked Zhang Mama before walking into the Western room softly.
Zhang Mama moved to the side to let Chu Jin Yao walk first before following behind. As she looked at Chu Jin Yao’s back as well as her deliberately lightened actions, she felt very complicated.
Chu Jin Yao was a genuine Di-born Young Lady, a high born female that crawled out of Madam Zhao’s stomach. Why the need to be this careful? If it was the Fourth Young Lady who grew up in front of Furen, she would have definitely started talking and laughing loudly as soon as she walked in before running to the room and falling into Furen’s arms, regardless of whether Furen was grooming or not. However, Furen’s real Di-born daughter, Chu Jin Yao, was instead very cautious.
Zhang Mama sighed. Who could have imagined that such a thing, that even novels would not dare to write, would actually happen in the residence of Marquis Chang Xing, the top graded family in Tai Yuan Province.
In the late autumn of the nineteenth year of Jian Xing, around October, an old servant of the courtyard of Marquis Chang Xing’s Furen, Madam Zhao, drank too much and started to talk big to the servants of other courtyards. She bragged that she had a long service record and knew about many matters of Furen and that she was even aware of the matter that Fourth Young Lady was not Furen’s biological daughter.
When the servants heard it, they knew that this old servant was just bragging. Who was Fourth Young Lady? She was Furen’s second Di-born Young Lady, the youngest child. She was doted upon and placed on the palm of her hands, so how could she not be of her own? If it was on normal days, others would just take it for entertainment if this old servant bragged and the matter would be over. But, on that particular day, the Marquis’ follower passed by and heard those words.
After the follower returned, he immediately reported it to the Marquis of Chang Xing. Upon hearing it, the Marquis was angered. It was a serious offence to gossip about the masters and what gossip were these servants spinning about? The Marquis of Chang Xing immediately instructed those servants of the inner courtyard to be brought over and personally interrogated them. This old servant was so frightened that she fell onto her knees and told the Marquis of Chang Xing every single detail of the matter.
Initially, the Marquis of Chang Xing did not believe it but upon hearing the vividly described details, he too started to have doubts. At the end, to avoid future troubles, he sent his people to investigate the matter and restore his daughter’s innocence. However, upon an investigation, the truth came out the most doted upon Fourth Young Lady of the Marquis residence might not be his daughter indeed.
That year, when Madam Zhao, the Marquis Furen, was pregnant, it was when the Tatars invaded the borders, oppressing cruelly down the South and approached the capital. There was almost an accident in the Northern Capital and ShanXi was ruined. Many places were devastated in murder and arsons by the Tartars and Tai Yuan Province was no exception. The residence of the Marquis Chang Xing was considered a well known noble family in Tai Yuan Province, thus it was naturally the target of Tatars. At that time, the Marquis Chang Xing was leading the troops and was unable to take care of the family for a while. Thus, the Furens and Young Ladies of the residence of Marquis of Chang Xing could only flee to the South. Fortunately, Marquis Chang Xing quickly led his troops and regained control of Tai Yuan Province, and the scattered family members were also brought back one after another. However, Madam Zhao, the Furen of Marquis Chang Xing was pregnant and due to the fright, had no choice but to give birth when fleeing to the South.
All unnecessary formalities were dispensed when fleeing; since one’s life cannot be saved, what was the need for delivery equipment? Madam Zhao could only seek temporary lodging with a commoner family and used a few pieces of gold jewelry as compensation. This was regarded as facing difficulty when giving birth.
At that time, that farmer family had also just given birth to a child and as such, they had no choice but to stay at home and not flee to the South with the other villagers. After Madam Zhao gave birth, she requested the farmer woman to feed a few days of milk before leaving with her dowry servants. A few more days later, the soldiers came over to fetch Madam Zhao.
After Madam Zhao escaped and returned to the Marquis Residence, she doted and loved this daughter that shared life and death, so much so that even Eldest Young Lady was incomparable. Madam Zhao gave birth to one son and two daughters and they were ranked Eldest Young Lady, Second Young Master, and Fourth Young Lady according to age. When fleeing, Old Furen left with Eldest Young Lady and when Madam Zhao was separated from others, she only had her wet nurse, Zhang Mama, and her youngest daughter, Fourth Young Lady. Upon returning to the residence, Fourth Young Lady was given the name Miao along with the generation name Jin and was doted upon.
Marquis Chang Xing also cherished this daughter who was born outside and suffered hardships while escaping. However, all the signs were now telling him that Chu Jin Miao might not be his daughter. His real daughter was secretly replaced by that farmer family during the chaos that year!