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TL’ed by snowflake_obsidian and edited by Xia
The text mentions the number 4 which with the 4 women and the 4 character idioms may be a play on words.
 北延国; Bei Yan country or North Yan country. In chapter 4 it was 延国 (Yan country).
 美人计; The beauty trap is one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems. The idea is to have beautiful women cause discord. The target becomes enamored with the beauty, neglecting responsibilities and becoming lax. Other males in the situation become aggressive, aggravating differences, hindering co-operation and destroying morale. And due to jealousy and envy, other females scheme, negatively impacting the situation.
 打狗还要看主人; beat the dog while still watching the owner. When dealing with someone you need to be cognizant of his/her backer, so you cannot bully or intimidate that person.
Ch 10 – Content to Stay in a Lowly Position
On the side, the three people in the family were playing such a mean and petty trick. As for Fu Rong, she was thoroughly trembling with fear due to Ru Yi's instigation. After lao taitai finished listening, her face looked displeased and her mouth was stiffly pursed. After a long while, she finally sighed and said, "At this point, just drop the matter. No one is allowed to bring it up again….Xuan Zi has no regard for his elders and couldn't differentiate between the good and bad. His punishment is to copy the Confucian classics three times. Taking into account of Fu Rong's inattentiveness, deduct her one month's salary!"
"Grandma, Xuan Zi is still young. Have pity!" Song Shi An anxiously pleaded for Xuan Zi.
But lao taitai had the appearance of "I've already decided".
Song Shi An couldn't think of anything and didn't say anymore. He merely looked into Xuan Zi's eyes as his heart filled with distress.
But Su Tang couldn't help feeling suspicious. The matter was considered finished? Just like this? Not just that, but it was all words and no action! It's obvious that young Lady Ru Yi played a dirty trick. What is this, Lao taitai only punished Xuan Zi and Fu Rong?
This isn't right, the proper master handled it, wanted to patch up a quarrel and yet —the heart has misgivings?
Lao taitai was considered the master of the whole family. Is there anyone within this manor that she still needs to fear? Making concessions in order to avoid trouble, could it be that lao taitai shouldn't give a justification to this granddaughter-in-law who has recently married into the manor? In any case, she could also be counted as a partial victim, at least in the view of the ordinary person on the street. Those few sentences from Xuan Zi has actually caused her to be stuck in an embarrassing situation!
Tongue clicking. This water is too muddy, causing people to be unable to see things clearly!
Lao taitai seemed to realized that the matter was weighing on Su Tang's mind. After waiting for Fu Rong to order Xuan Zi to withdraw, she turned towards Song Shi An as she spoke, "Why are you still kneeling? Still not helping your wife to get up?"
Contrarily, Su Tang was eager to let cold noodles wait upon her. But seeing him standing up, not looking at her, not even giving her a glance, Su Tang killed that part of her heart. She decisively thought that she'd nimbly stand up but had forgotten about her soft legs. And added to the situation of kneeling for such a long time, she stumbled while trying to stand up. This Song Shi An didn't want to support her nor felt that he should support her.
On account of Song Shi An, Su Tang simply put on a smile, looking very innocent.
Falling into lao taitai's sight, it looked just like an amiable husband and wife scene. With a relaxed facial expression, she displayed her former kindness and spoke to Song Shi An, "Since you're busy, you may leave first. Grandma has nothing to do today. Let your wife stay behind to accompany me. I have something to say."
Song Shi An glanced at Su Tang, he didn't know whether she was warned or something else.
But Su Tang still broadcasted the proper smiling face of a harmless person. However, a drum was continuously beating in her mind…talk about what? What else is there need to talk about? Why keep away cold noodles?
Waiting until after Song Shi An left, lao taitai again waved all the maid servants away. Only Jin Xiu and Xi Que were left, and Su Tang drew nearer to sit down.
Su Tang's heart jumped, this appeared like they were going to talk about a secret.
After Lao taitai sipped tea, she drew Su Tang's hand over and softly said, "Child, I've wronged you."
Su Tang didn't expect this opening remark and wasn't sure about its meaning. So she just smiled without uttering a sound.
Lao taitai continued saying, "From this day forth, you are a person who belongs to my Song family, and the mistress of this general's manor. I have some matters to speak plainly with you."
"Grandma, go ahead and speak." Reserved, Su Tang spoke but her ears were already on alert.
"Those four young ladies of Xi Yuan were bestowed to Shi An by the emperor …" Little by little, lao taitai spoke about the origins of these four people. And so when she finished speaking, Su Tang finally understood what actually happened just a while ago.
These four young ladies are this years' young talented stars. Sparing the original details, they entered the palace harem due to their natural beauty and received the emperors' utmost affections. Furthermore, they were conferred the four names of "Ji Xiang, Ru Yi, Ru Shi, Ru Hua" .
After Song Shi An was summoned back from the border area, he continuously advocated war and thoroughly expected that the strength of the entire country would be enough to defeat Bei Yan . However, the emperor along with a good deal of the cabinet ministers all refused to consent. The reason was that the national treasury was in debt. In order to keep Song Shi An from interfering with one's plans, the little emperor used both hard and soft tactics. In the end, he forcibly took his own four dearly loved beauties and bestowed them to Song Shi An, treated it as carrying out the beauty trap .
Who knew that Song Shi An wouldn't in the least bit indulge in attractive women. After politely refusing as being not workable, he calmly accepted. After having been exchanged, they were put aside in Xi Yuan. Since then, he hasn't shown the slightest interest.
So then a situation that was hard to deal with was born. The little emperor in the imperial edict merely said "bestow four beautiful women", those beauties entered the general's manor but in the final analysis, what was their real identity? If they are Song Shi An's pet then that is also a concubine, reckoned as mistress of the manor, except that Song Shi An had shunned them.
How should it be considered? Supposedly maid servants but when all's said and done, they were conferred by the emperor and doted upon by him! So then these four young ladies were mistresses yet aren't mistresses, and servants yet aren't servants. It affected the Song household from the beginning till the end, to the extent that even lao taitai was unavoidably offended. Ultimately there was no other alternative but to respect as distinguished guests and keep them away.
"I originally believed that we could simply live peacefully together. Who knew that todays' matter would occur… " Lao taitai sighed after finished speaking, looking utterly helpless.
From the very beginning, Su Tang had listened with high spirits. Seeing lao taitai's troubled face, Su Tang put on an appearance of anxiety while her train of thought was fully occupied on clearing things away. It's too bad, she really didn't have the least bit of anxiety. Her heart had another type of plan….so as it turns out, that pan of cold noodles was supporting four beauties.
Ha ha ha, still not indulging in attractive women? What a joke. He's digging up the earth that surrounded the old woman and she is still in pain! But why didn't anyone tell me about this matter? The family has an illegitimate child, and also four beautiful young women. This marriage turned out to be such a mess!
Su Tang kept thinking, her heart unexpectedly felt upset!
It's truly a heavy loss!
Lao taitai began to talk again, "This matter has occurred and the emperor has already bestowed them. Therefore, grandma must wrong you as they also can’t be penalized."
Su Tang nodded to express understanding. Despite the chief instigator was known, it was the emperor who bequeathed them therefore it was difficult to give punishment. They could only pretend to not notice and maintained the peace, what was known as beat the dog while still watching the owner !
Seeing how Su Tang reacted, Lao taitai manifested a small smile. "Such a well behaved child, I just knew that you're magnimous in considering others."
Hearing what was said, Su Tang lifted her head and considered refuting a bit, but finally just blinked her eyes, giving off a docile appearance—she, by no means was magnanimous. She just didn't feel like arguing with them. At any rate, she would only serve as the general's wife for one month. Why would she attract that much trouble, let's avoid the bothersome matters!
Su Tang spoke in a soft voice and asked, "Grandma, is young lady Ru Yi that difficult to deal with among the four people?"
Momentarily stumped for words, it was as if Lao taitai hadn't expect that Su Tang would ask this question.
Su Tang calmly smiled, "Grandma, although granddaughter-in-law is disinclined to fuss with these people, unhappy people won't stop looking for opportunities to give me trouble. But it's good to know one's self and know the enemy. When the moment comes to respond, one should also be able to execute well, right?"
With her face carrying a smile, Su Tang finished speaking and looked at lao taitai's expression. She used an extremely soft voice but these words had an obvious cutting edge. She wasn't sure if Lao taitai was able to bear this. Alas, it seems that these elders all loved upright and virtuous obedient women. But how could she do what she was told.
To not declare one's position was the posture of admitting defeat and let oneself be tramped upon! Your old Song family are afraid to provoke those four people. What choice does she have? But to follow and be content in a lowly position?! The person came and completely declared war. Even if she didn't take the initiative to launch an attack, she must also be on the look-out!
Su Tang couldn't help but criticize in her mind, lao taitai seemed like a capable person. Exude all her imposing power and she was able to frighten a whole room of people into kneeling, then why feel helpless toward these four "bestowed goods"?
Su Tang had initially thought that lao taitai would be agitated upon hearing these. Who would have expected that she and Jin Xiu, who was at her side, would look at each other and laugh?
Huh? What's going on? Su Tang was somewhat bewildered.
Lao taitai smiled and said, "Among those four, that young Lady Ru Yi was regarded as difficult to deal with. The other three young ladies are from a poor family background. Only Ru Yi was from a Jiang Nan family that has produced public officials for several generations, extremely opinionated…"
Lao taitai spoke in a softer voice. Su Tang understood and once more made a mental calculation about something that Fu Rong said a moment ago. She had an impression about this young lady Ru Yi.
It's very likely that this young lady was not reconciled to being out in the cold at the general's manor. Knowing that Song Shi An doted on his illegitimate son, at the outset, she tried to get close to Xuan Zi. What's more, she inquired everywhere about the matter of Xuan Zi's birth mother and mistakenly thought that Song Shi An was indeed fond of her the way he's fond of Xuan Zi. She naturally learned a bit to be able to, when the time comes, enter the eye of the general.
But the subject of Xuan Zi's birth mother was a taboo, nobody would bring it up. Even Xuan Zi didn't have much fondness toward her. As a result, in the end, she just brought contempt upon herself.
Afterward, hearing that the emperor bestowed another marriage to Song Shi An, she had even more bad intentions….
Su Tang thought again and again, and also felt miserable on behalf of this young Lady Ru Yi. At first she thought that she had gained the emperor's favor and from that time on would soar up into the sky. But who knew she would be regarded as bestowed appeasement and gifted to cold noodles.
Thoughts about stepping back to settle for second best, a not exactly legal wife of a general, but in the future become the general's wife and bring ample honor to her own family. Who would have thought that once again what was expected to happen came to nothing. Up to now, having to endure this general's furen…
Fortunately, I don't have to be up to the task for long time and won't fuss with you. Otherwise, it would be a wonder if I didn't cause you trouble!
Hope that you will be well-behaved this one month. When the time comes for me to leave, you can still take my place and be a proper furen! If you trouble me and still don't open your eyes… then I your old mother will sweep you like garbage out the door! — Su Tang fiercely kept this in mind!
An idea now appeared, Su Tang thought of another matter—this Song family completely and thoroughly guarded the secret of Xuan Zi's own mother!
This…just who is this person? Thinking that at the beginning Aunt Zhou, this prying person, didn't inquire about the history of Xuan Zi's mother…
However, it seems impossible to ask this of the head of the household who is in front of her eyes. Su Tang seemingly found the reason for lao taitai being indifferent toward Xuan Zi, perhaps it was related to the birth mother. And those phrases said by Xuan Zi just a moment ago led lao taitai to greatly flare up, not only because Xuan Zi showed no respect to his elders, still more owing to him bringing up his "mother"!
Su Tang began to be full of curiosity again, her eyes were completely narrowed.
Lao taitai loathed Xuan Zi's mother. It's very likely that cold noodles was extremely fond of Xuan Zi's mother. This woman was able to make these two people, grandparent and grandchild, love and hate, the two extremes. I'm afraid that she wouldn't be easy to deal with.
What a pity…she has already passed on.
Su Tang was somewhat disheartened after thinking of this, the bottom of her heart began to feel sour.
"What are you thinking about?"
Unexpectedly lao taitai raised a question interrupting Su Tang's trains of thought. After refocusing her thoughts she hollowly laughed, then shifted her mind at lightening speed. Her vision caught sight of the amiable smiling Jin Xiu standing there on the side, and had an idea.
Su Tang shifted her body. All smiles as she asked, "A moment ago granddaughter-in-law was thinking about what place will my servant be staying tonight. This matter hasn't been figured out yet!"
Hearing this, lao taitai and Jin Xiu again looked at each other, smiling. Su Tang's heart was simply dismayed upon seeing their reaction. Why do these two people both have a scheming expression?
Jin Xiu executed a courtesy toward Su Tang and said, "This matter is rather odd as nubi properly handled the matter. However, furen is invited to listen to nubi's brief explanation."
Su Tang arched an eyebrow. What, don't tell me that earlier they already knew about this matter?
"The room for furen's maid servant, Xi Que, was arranged long ago. It's the side room which is next door to furen's bedroom. Hearing that furen only has one maid servant, nubi was afraid that being unfamiliar, she'd be reticent and intentionally allocated Mu Dan. That one maid servant, will accompany Xi Que and introduce her to some of the matters of the manor. Mu Dan would usually thoroughly handle such matters, therefore after instructing her, nubi was fully occupied with other matters. I originally believed this matter would not have any mishaps.
Unexpectedly, another maid servant, Xiang Lan, came to tell nubi this morning that Xi Que didn't have any arrangement and stood by herself outside the door last night. Seeing this, Xiang Lan led Xi Que to her own room to stay the night.
When nubi first heard about this, nubi realized something didn't seem right and hastily ordered someone to bring Mu Dan. In the end, we almost couldn't find her as she was in Xi Yuan with young lady Ru Yi."
Again it's Xi Yuan's young Lady Ru Yi?!
Oh, the influence truly lingers on!
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