Chapter 31 Opposing each other with equal harshness
It was fine weather after the rain. The moonlight was clear like water.
No one was in the mood to talk. All the way, the three were quiet. Only the soft sound of the embroidered shoes moving on the wet stones could be heard.
Only when they stepped in the yard of Pine Crane Hall did Zisu turn and locked the main door. Then, she went in first to report. Following this, concubine Yun whispered, “Second young mistress, it’s really not me…”
Shu Huan turned and looked at her.
Her (Y) face was pale like the moonlight. There was grievance in her eyes as well as confusion and helplessness.
“I know it’s not you.”
When people do good things, they often rely on their own heart. When they do bad things, it was for the sake of interest. Only when concubine Yun hold on that information that can be used against her (SH) and threaten her would it be beneficial for her (Y). If the information gets out, both sides would lose. This was also why both of them would be here now. It was just, did concubine Yun know that when she schemed against someone, she could also be schemed against? The one who was unlucky was her (SH). She didn’t do anything, but was still struck by the arrow…
Shu Huan sighed and asked, “What did my parents tell you exactly?”
Concubine Yun shook her head and said, “They didn’t say anything. I just asked them whether second young mistress knows how to read. They said that you learned from that scholar. I let someone inquire about the other things. Aside from the sachet, there was nothing else.”
Shu Huan’s heart slightly calmed down. She lifted her skirt and walked up the steps.
When things came to a head, she wasn’t afraid anymore. After all, even if she was afraid, it wouldn’t help the matter.
It was just the mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind. Concubine Yun was the mantis. Then, who was the oriole?
- The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind: to pursue a narrow gain while neglecting a greater danger.
When the two entered the main hall, they saw old madam sitting on the main seat with a sullen face. That expression was even more ugly than how Gu Xihe described it. Shu Huan stepped forward and paid her respect, “Greetings to old madam.”
Old madam humphed once coldly and shouted, “Everyone retreat. No one is allowed to stay in the room!”
“Yes,” Zisu and the other maids responded. Everyone retreated unsettled and closed the door.
Old madam personally walked to the door and locked it. Then, her gaze swept over Shu Huan and concubine Yun. She shouted, “Kneel!”
The voice was like thunder, making concubine Yun tremble and kneel first.
Shu Huan lifted her clothes a bit and also knelt.
Old madam then walked back and sat down. She just looked at them gloomily like this without a word. Shu Huan didn’t know how much time had passed, when she finally heard old madam say, “Where is the sachet? Still not handing it over?!”
Sure enough, it was for this matter!
Although, she was prepared, Shu Huan’s eyelid still jumped. She got a headache from guessing how many eyes and ears were placed at her side. Or better said, inside of Plum Flower Pavilion.
Concubine Yun’s body trembled once more. After hesitating for a while, she suddenly gritted her teeth and said, “Answering old madam, I’ve long burned the sachet.”
“Burned?” Old madam sneered and didn’t believe it, “For who are you hiding it?”
Originally, concubine Yun was desperate and turned to any doctor one can find when critically ill. When she caught some fault, she wanted to use it to threaten Shu Huan. However, in the morning she (Y) was refuted by her (SH). When she (Y) thought about the matter from the beginning, she found out that she was indeed wrong. Or better said, she was wrong for taking that -nothing can affect me- attitude of Shu Huan as her (SH) ignorance and innocence about worldly matters. Only now did she realize that the one who was the most ignorant was herself!
- Turned to any doctor one can find when critically ill: try anything in a crisis
She wouldn’t get anything well from handing the sachet over. So, she forced herself to insist, “Yan was afraid that if Yan carry it with me and by chance, Yan loses it or the maids saw it, it wouldn’t be good. To avoid taking any chances, Yan burned it.”
“You…,” old madam slammed her hand on the table. She pointed at her (Y) and was so angry that she couldn’t speak. After panting for a while, she looked at Shu Huan with anger and said sickly, “Is that sachet really personally made by you and you had given it to someone?”
Old madam seemed to be very clear about the ins and outs of the matter. This was difficult for Shu Huan. She obviously didn’t do anything, so she was not willing to admit to it. However, if she denied it, others already thought that she did it and would only see her denial as having a guilty conscience.
So, she said, “Old madam knows that my maiden family is poor. Before I married, I had to do needlework every day to sell in exchange for rice. The clothes and number of sachets that I made over the years are countless. I truly don’t remember whether I have done that one or not and I have also never given such a thing to another.”
Old madam glared at her and spit out two words, “All excuses!”
Shu Huan no longer spoke and just faced her undisturbedly.
No matter whether the sachet had been really burned or not, but since concubine Yun said that it had been burned, it was impossible to take it out. Without the sachet to verify, everything was just speculation. There was no evidence.
When old madam saw that she (SH) was looking at her in the eyes, although she was annoyed that she (SH) was rude, but the strange thing was that her anger lessened. She asked her, “Is it a truth that you learned how to read from that scholar?”
Shu Huan stabilized her mind and quickly recalled what Gu Xiran had told her about the original owner’s background. She nodded and said, “He often brought clothes to wash. Sometimes, when I was idle, he would teach me a few words. When I know how to read, I can embroider some words and verses on the embroidery. Those were well-liked by the literary people. I could also sell them at a higher price. If it wasn’t because of this, how would my mother let me learn how to read?”
Even if such speculation wasn’t the truth, but it shouldn’t be far from the facts.
Old madam didn’t know about her background so well as Gu Xiran, but she also knew a lot. After she carefully listened to her (SH) explanation, she was silent for a moment. She couldn’t find a loophole and instead Shu Huan seemed very undisturbed. She could only say coldly, “When a man and woman are alone together, who knows what will happen?!”
This question was different from the last time. Before, she’d accidentally caused a fire and felt remorseful. This time, she felt that she hadn’t done anything wrong. She didn’t feel that she was at a loss at all. Hence, Shu Huan didn’t dodge her gaze, straightened her spine and said, “Old madam, forgive me for being rude. Although, I was born in a poor family, but I also know sense of propriety, justice, integrity and honor. Besides, I learned how to read and know some principles. I would absolutely not do anything that could shame the family! Moreover, the teaching matter happened a few years ago. I was young and didn’t get my hairpin ceremony yet. What could children do together?”
- Hairpin ceremony happened when the girl turned fifteen. She would then receive a hairpin and no longer have to comb her hair in the hairstyles of children.
Old madam was rendered speechless by her. She furiously said, “Then, why did you still gift someone an embroidery with mandarin ducks playing in the water embroidered on it? After you learned how to read, didn’t you know what a pair of mandarin ducks meant?”
This question was asked very strictly. Concubine Yun’s face turned white and she secretly pulled Shu Huan’s sleeve to let her not speak anymore.
Who would’ve thought that Shu Huan also got angry? She felt that this old madam liked to put a basin of feces above her head. She didn’t care about concubine Yun’s dissuasion and said in a clear voice, “Old madam, I already said before that it is still unknown whether that sachet was made by me or not. Moreover, I haven’t given such a thing to anyone. If old madam doesn’t believe me, no matter who you find to confront me, I will still say this!”
This time she took a bet!
Just by the secretive way old madam asked them to come for the interrogation, she didn’t believe that this matter could get out and that she (OM) would find someone to confront her (SH)! Even if she had to confront someone, she wasn’t afraid. The sachet was gone. It would only be a verbal argument.
Old madam seemed to have the habit of smashing the tea cups. She grabbed the tea-cup on the table and smashed it at her. She didn’t dodge and also didn’t have the time to dodge. However, old madam’s eye-sight wasn’t good. The tea cup still didn’t touch her and landed on concubine Yun instead. The tea inside the cup splashed on her. Fortunately, it wasn’t newly brewed tea. It was already cold, so she didn’t have to be concerned about burns.
Concubine Yun was shocked by this. Tears were already welling up in her eyes.
Old madam glanced at her with disgust, “What are you feeling wronged for? Wasn’t this caused by you?!”
While talking, she turned to Shu Huan and interrogated her in a stern voice, “I will first put down the matter of the sachet. Is your morning sickness real or fake?!”
Even this matter had been spread!
It turned out that old madam cared the most about this!
She was afraid that she (SH) already had a relationship before she married and would add a bastard to Gu family!
It was clearly a very serious question. If the answer was not good, she would suffer. However, Shu Huan didn’t know why, she felt relieved. She smiled slightly and said, “There is no such a thing! If old madam doesn’t believe me, old madam can call a doctor to check my pulse!”