Edited by Larkspur
Chapter 18: The Oriole Is Lurking Behind
The chapter title is the second part of the Chinese phrase: the praying mantis stalks the cicada oblivious to the oriole lurking behind. The phrase serves as a warning to being so focused on a narrow goal that one neglects to see the greater danger in the bigger picture.
Huang YiNiang was favoured and Third Young Lady was influenced since young, thus she was able to coax males. Third Young Lady knew that she was a Shu daughter and thus was unable to count on Old Chu Furen or Madam Zhao, who would not even speak good things about her. The only one she could rely on was Marquis Chang Xin. After all, Marquis Chang Xin was the master of the Marquis residence, so as long as he thought highly of her, Old Furen and the rest would not dare to take Third Young Lady lightly.
Third Young Lady saw that she had succeeded in leaving an impression of diligence with Marquis Chang Xin and withdrew with satisfaction. The next step was to persuade Marquis Chang Xin and let him come forward to recommend Third Young Lady to be the study companion to Old Chu Furen. That would be Huang YiNiang’s matter.
After exiting, Third Young Lady’s footsteps were much lighter. When her maids saw that their young lady was happy, they said teasingly, “The Marquis indeed dotes on Young Lady and even said that Young Lady should be the County Princess’s study companion.”
“The elders often like those well-behaved and diligent. Moreover, when dealing with males, it is enough to show weakness and then a naïve and innocent temperament. With YiNiang helping me to scheme, I must have the position of the study companion in my hands.” Third Young Lady continued, “The matter of being the County Princess’s study companion is a small matter. Upon being in the Wang residence, the most important thing is to interact with ShiZi (aka heir). At that time, I will work harder and put in more effort on ShiZi. Maybe I would spend the second half of my life in the Wang residence.”
Third Young Lady revealed a smile as she thought about it. She was very confident in her ways of winning over males. She dared to say that as long as she was able to successfully enter the Wang residence, she would definitely be able to let the ShiZi have a good impression of her and afterwards successfully stay in the Wang residence. It would be best that she would become the ShiZi Consort, but even if she was unable to be, being a secondary consort was better than others. Madam Zhao hated YiNiang so much and her marriage would fall into Madam Zhao’s hands, how would it be any good? It would be better for her to fight it for herself.
The maid replied, “Young Lady is correct. Young Lady is so smart and will definitely fulfill one’s wishes in the future.”
“That is of course.” Third Young Lady replied complacently. In the Inner Courtyard, as only as one was able to seize the male, it was equivalent to obtaining everything. So what if the Old Furen did not like? Old Chu Furen did not like YiNiang’s seductive charms but Marquis Chang Xin did. YiNiang lived grandly and decently in the Inner Courtyard. Other than the title of an official wife, she was not lacking anything else. Even the powerful Old Chu Furen had to suffer the temperament of a concubine when she was young. Third Young Lady’s environment had practically taught her that, compared to the title of an official wife and concubine, it was much more powerful to cling onto a male instead. If worse came to worst, just coax the male and fight with the official wife for favour. Third Young Lady was very confident in her skills in gaining favour.
The maid asked, “Young Lady, do we still need to light the lamp to study tonight?”
“Who is patient enough to read?” Third Young Lady said in disgust, “Light a lap in the Eastern room and spread the book out to create an illusion that I am reading. Oh yes. Also inadvertently reveal it to Father that I was studying till very late again.”
In Sixth Young Lady’s room in the Third Household, the maid came in to top up water for Sixth Young Lady.
“Young Lady, it is already late. Are you still reading?”
“In order to be selected as a study companion, one has to have a diligent image.” Sixth Young Lady put down the brush. She had just finished a page of characters and her wrist ached. She felt that this was enough and said, “I will stop here for today. My hands are tired, so I will take a break.”
“Young Lady’s hands are tired?” The maids hurried over and half knelt on the ground to massage Sixth Young Lady’s wrists. The maid said, “Young Lady, you are too diligent already. However, one’s health is the most important. Do rest when you are tired. It is not too late to study tomorrow.”
“En.” Sixth Young Lady replied softly. She leaned back a little tiredly and placed her hand onto the maid’s hands so that she could massage. She then closed her eyes but her mind was going through the happenings of the day.
Today, they had joined forces to plot against Chu Jin Yao secretly, but her subsequent counterattack had surprised her.
Sixth Young Lady was the sole Di daughter of the Third Household. Third Master was birthed by Yang YiNiang, who was the exceptionally favoured YiNiang when Old Marquis was alive. Third Master was also highly valued and that was the most well-regarded period of the Third Household as their food and clothes were better than the Di or Eldest born. Even Old Chu Furen would avoid clashing with the Third Household. It was unfortunate that the Old Marquis passed on and the Marquis position was passed to the Eldest Household. Old Chu Furen’s fortunes turned around immediately and afterwards started to suppress Yang YiNiang and the Third Household.
Those years ago, the Old Marquis especially doted on Third Master and even thought of passing the Marquis title to the Third Household. However, the legitimate mother was still alive and there were two Di older brothers. Old Chu Furen’s maiden family was not easy to deal with and with the laws of ceremonial rites suppressing, just the Old Marquis’s power was not enough to compete with the entire patriarchal society. In the end, the Marquis title was passed to the Eldest Son, Chu Jing and Old Chu Furen finally waited for the opportunity to turn her fortune around after over ten years.
As soon as Old Chu Furen gained power, she immediately sold Yang YiNiang away and even berated the Third Household for not being well-behaved in front of everyone, due to excessive food and clothes. The Third Household had no face and after that, the level of food and clothes that they enjoyed drastically plummeted. It turned out that they were unable to retain all the gold and silver that the Old Marquis had awarded to them.
Until this day, the Third Household had to live with their tails sandwiched between their legs and Third Master and Third Furen would dare not even fart in front of the Di mother. The entire residence knew that Old Furen did not like the Third Household and the servants of the residence sided with power and thus a number of them would not take them seriously and even dared to hold back the daily necessities of the Third Household. Old Furen was one that could not tolerate any grain of sand in her eyes but would close an eye to the matter and completely acquiesce to it.
Sixth Young Lady, unknowingly, revealed a sarcastic smile on her face. After all, Old Chu Furen did not have any blood relations with their Third Household, so how could one count on Old Chu Furen’s kindness? After all, humans are selfish and hypocritical.
The Third Household was treading on thin ice outside but internally, they were very harmonious. It was as if the pressures outside had increased their unity. Third Master and Third Furen had a harmonious relationship and both son and daughter were Di born. Third Master only had a few TongFang and no concubines. Compared to the complicated inner courtyard of Marquis Chang Xin and the Second Master who liked to pick flowers and trample grass (aka womanise), Third Master was indeed much better.
Sixth Young Lady was Third Master’s and Third Furen’s only daughter and was only twelve this year. Sixth Young Lady closed her eyes as she thought slowly. Marquis Chang Xin was currently in good health and he had Di sons in his line. Unless all the males in the Eldest and Second Household die overnight, there would be no opportunity for the Third Household to change their fortunes. Mother had counted on Fifth Young Master to pass the Imperial examinations and thus soar into the skies. However, Fifth Young Master was only eleven and even if he were to pass the examinations, it would be a matter for many years later.
When all was said and done, the only person Sixth Young Lady could count on was herself.
“Young Lady?” The maid suddenly called out and Sixth Young Lady woke up from her thoughts. She looked at the maid unpleasantly and asked, “What is the matter?”
The maid flinched and quickly lowered her head before speaking, “It is nothing. I feared that Young Lady would sleep and thus called out.”
Sixth Young Lady withdrew her hand. After being massaged by the maid for a long time, her hand felt much better. Her eyes were as calm as an old well as she said quietly, “It is indeed difficult when one does not have the elders’ favour. It seems that one can only work hard to change the situation.”
“Young Lady?” the maid asked tentatively. Sixth Young Lady turned her head and instructed plainly, “These few days I will be studying diligently so you should prepare brush, ink and the other stuff in advance.”
In Chao Yun Yuan, Chu Jin Yao had just finished writing the third page of calligraphy.
Qin Yi had taken a nap and saw that Chu Jin Yao was still practicing calligraphy when he woke. He looked at the skies before speaking, “You have kept on practicing calligraphy?”
“Yes.” Chu Jin Yao placed her brush down and rubbed her already stiff wrists before spreading out a new piece of paper. She had already finished writing three pages and this was the finished product but there were many wasted papers in between. Third Young Lady had kept the lights in the study room to show her diligence. Sixth Young Lady set her heart on practicing but upon writing a piece, she felt tired and no longer wanted to write. As For Chu Jin Miao, she accompanied Madam Zhao to chat for the entire night as she was helping Madam Zhao fight the YiNiangs in the inner courtyard. It was only Chu Jin Yao who really practiced all night and had not rested until now.
Even Qin Yi sighed, “There is no need to be this anxious. Even three Che (modern: 1 foot) of ice is not frozen in a day, thus there is no need for you to force yourself until like this.” Chu Jin Yao’s handwork was comparable to that of a student studying for the preliminary round of the Imperial examinations.
“No.” Chu Jin Yao shook her head, “I did not have the opportunity to write before, so I am already much lacking as compared to my sisters. If I do not work hard, then I deserve to be laughed at. I will continue to write for another page. You should have a rest first.”
Qin Yi looked at it for a while and sighed silently. He then suddenly spoke, “I previously was still worried about you, but it seems that you will live your life very well, wherever you go in the future.”
“Really?” Chu Jin Yao was surprised and looked up from the paper, towards Qin Yi.
Under the light, her eyes were bright and almost shining. Qin Yi laughed lightly and nodded his head in a rare moment, “Really.”
Chu Jin Yao chuckled, “I also think so. Upon thinking that one will be staying in a totally unfamiliar family in the future, I would feel terrified. However, with the thought of your accompaniment, one feels that it is nothing at all.”
Qin Yi stayed silent for a while before speaking in a low voice, “Chu Jin Yao, have you ever thought if one day I am gone?”
Upon hearing these words, Chu Jin Yao was suddenly speechless.
In fact, she did think about this problem. Although she did not know how Qin Yi appeared in her jade pendant, he was omnipotent and for such a spirit with unknown origins that had a detailed understanding of the world, Chu Jin Yao did not think that the other party would continue to stay at her side. She had thought that her encounter with Qin Yi was already a blessing by the Heavens. When such a day truly comes, she could only wish that Qin Yi would soar higher.
“If there is such a day, Qi Ze, you must tell me earlier.” As soon as the words were spoken, Chu Jin Yao regretted it again. “No. It is better that you do not tell me as I would be upset if I knew it. With so much knowledge, you belong to the vast skies outside and not the small piece of the sky like an unmarried lady is exposed to. You will definitely live a very good life in the future. I will always wish you well.”
Qin Yi did not speak. This was their first time talking about this topic. He had considered it many times. He would be leaving sooner or later and by reminding Chu Jin Yao earlier, it was for her own good to be mentally prepared for it. However, when he really brought this topic up, he did not like it at all. He inexplicably disliked the heavy atmosphere at this moment.
“Forget about it. This day is still far away. Let’s talk about it then.” Qin Yi sighed.
However, Chu Jin Yao did not heed to his words as before. She untied the string and took the jade pendant out. This piece of jade was delicate and the red specks in the jade had an enchanting beauty to it. She looked at it for a long time before speaking, “Qi Ze, look at this. There are very few red specks in the jade.”
Qin Yi did not continue the conversation for reasons unknown. Chu Jin Yao did not mind his indifference and continued speaking, “None of us will know what will happen after all the red streaks disappear. However, I am not willing to gamble on it. I do not want you to take this risk.”
After a while, she said with difficulty, “Let’s think of a way.”