The result of a sleepless night was a pair of swollen eyes and a drowsy work shift the next day.
Unfortunately Xiao Hua was soon startled wide awake.
The events of her past life went as follows: the young master bestowed her the soup, she was slapped by Qiao-Shi, the young master argued with his wife and Qiao-Shi went to ask the madam to mediate. To placate Qiao-Shi, the madam had bestowed her a few hits with the plank.
This time Bi Yuan was the main character. When Qiao-Shi went to the main pavilion to seek an audience with the madam, the madam’s cough happened to flare up and she was refused entry. Then moments later, the main pavilion’s senior maid Xiu É came to the Jinxiu Pavilion to deliver Bi Yuan a bottle of medication for injuries.
Xiu É did not say a word throughout, but the whole Jinxiu Pavilion, even the whole Jinyang Marquis Estate understood the madam’s meaning.
What could it mean? You hit someone’s face and afterwards the estate’s madam sent someone with medicine. Why don’t you go ponder the meaning of that by yourself?
After Xiu É left, Bi Yuan’s face was filled with poorly concealed satisfaction whereas the main residence on Qiao-Shi’s side had its front door firmly shut and was silent as if no one was home.
The atmosphere within the Jinxiu Pavilion flared up even more.
It should be said that the Jinyang Marquis Estate’s madam had made a mistake this time. Her intention was to knock Qiao-Shi down a few pegs while placating Matron Qu a little. Who knew that it would give the maids in the pavilion the wrong signal?
The other common maids could be overlooked, but Cui Lan and Liu Ye were unable to sit still.
The rumor that the madam intended to give the young master a chambermaid had constantly circulated throughout the estate, though who it would be was unknown.
Now that the fourth young madam had used an excuse to hit Bi Yuan and the madam had immediately sent over medicine, along with the fact that Bi Yuan had always had a lot of credit in the madam’s eyes, she seemed to be the shoo-in for the chambermaid position.
If Bi Yuan became the person in the young master’s room, what would happen to them?
Apart from Xiao Hua, the senior maids weren’t young anymore. The estate rules stated that maids have to be released when they turned 18, with 19 being the limit. Cui Lan and Liu Ye were both 17 already. Would they really have to get matched with some servant or get released and be married to some commoner?
The quality of life in the Jinyang Marquis Estate had always been superior. Senior maids weren’t that much worse off compared to their masters. Not only did they get a few pieces of silver every month as salary, they had several outfits for every season and from time to time the master would bestow a few rewards. None of them were willing to be released from service and be matched with another servant, especially after having had a taste of the good life.
Cui Lan and Liu Ye grew anxious. The two of them might have thought they hid it well, but Xiao Hua was able to tell. Their current feelings were similar to hers previously after all. While the reincarnated Xiao Hua understood things clearly, they were unable to see through it.
Wealth and status blinds one’s eyes. Wealth and status could also take one’s life!
The 4th young master hadn’t gone to the front yard to study these past few days. Bi Yuan was curious and asked about it. The young master said his posting would be announced in the next few days so his father asked him to rest at home in the meantime.
On this day, the 4th young master left to meet some friends. The maids in the guest house started arguing.
The reason it started would make one speechless. Essentially, Cui Lan could no longer hold her tongue and spoke a few words of ridicule to Bi Yuan, who then retaliated. As the two began to fight, Liu Ye appeared to try and smooth things over, but in reality her words were all in support of Cui Lan.
Bi Yuan wasn’t stupid and could clearly tell. However, her thoughts were different from others, her expression becoming cold.
The argument ended without a peaceful resolution. Liu Ye pulled Cui Lan away under the excuse of stopping the fight, and Bi Yuan sat there contemplating in silence for a long while.
BI Yuan only spoke as it was about to get dark. She said as the senior maid in charge of things, she couldn’t always let Cui Lan and Liu Ye work so hard on the overnight shift. From now on, everyone would rotate shifts, which also included Xiao Hua.
Xiao Hua was dumbfounded at having somehow attracted calamity, but she was also clear that senior maids were supposed to have night shifts. Bi Yuan as the senior maid in charge didn’t have to, but could decide whether or not depending on her mood. Since no one arranged a night shift for Xiao Hua before, she was not aware of this situation.
Only after Bi Yuan announced the night shift schedule did she understand.
Bi Yuan and Liu Ye would take a night, Cui Lan and her would take the following night.
After hearing the arrangements, Cui Lan and Liu Ye’s face darkened on the spot, and Xiao Hua could only smile bitterly. She was being used as an obstacle.
Of course, she had no way to resist. Xiao Hua showed no outward disagreement, but in her heart she was grimacing endlessly.
Tonight Bi Yuan and Liu Ye would be on duty so Xiao Hua left on the dot.
After dinner, she finished washing up and was preparing to sleep when Cui Lan knocked on the door and entered.
“Big sis Cui Lan, what’s the matter?”
Cui Lan did not waste her time exchanging pleasantries, saying bluntly, “In the future when we’re on night duty, I’ll take the first half and you can take the second half.”
Xiao Hua pondered a while before nodding her head.
She understood Cui Lan’s intentions. She could interact with the young master a little during the first half of the night, and in the second half the young master would be sleeping. The person on the second shift would only be sitting there idly.
Cui Lan saw that Xiao Hua was easy to talk to after all. She clenched her teeth and spoke again: “If I end up doing something, just pretend you didn’t see it. Understood?”
Xiao Hua looked at Cui Lan in amazement. She couldn’t sit still after all?
While it didn’t bother her, she also didn’t want to offend Bi Yuan.
Bi Yuan’s intentions were very clear. She wanted her to keep an eye on Cui Lan. Tomorrow before her shift started Bi Yuan would probably come talk to her about it. She needed to figure out how to keep herself from getting involved.
Cui Lan was well aware of Xiao Hua’s misgivings, otherwise she couldn’t have come to discuss with her beforehand. During this time she had also realized Xiao Hua was just a blockhead. Of course it might be due to her young age that she didn’t have such inclinations, and perhaps things would change as she got older.
If Xiao Hua knew Cui Lan thought of her that way, she would definitely jeer that age had nothing to do with it. Wasn’t she also young in her past life, climbing into the young master’s bed at 14? She just didn’t have the inclination to do so this time around.
Back to the topic at hand.
Cui Lan told Xiao Hua comfortingly: “Even if something happens, it would be on me. What would you have to do with it?”
Hearing Cui Lan put it that way, Xiao Hua could only dumbly nod her head, but her heart was a mess. She didn’t want to offend Bi Yuan, but also didn’t want to offend Cui Lan. Offending Cui Lan most likely meant offending Liu Ye as well. How was she supposed to avoid getting involved?
Because she had a shift the next night, Xiao Hua got the morning off. Besides, no one asked her why she wasn’t at work in the morning. She slept in until noon before getting up.
She saw Bi Yuan’s bed had remained untouched, and thought in her heart that Bi Yuan was really going all out. Having stayed on duty the whole night, and continuing her shift during the day, she was probably also afraid of Cui Lan and Liu Ye combining forces, and wanted to keep a close watch. But was this something that can be prevented by watching? Xiao Hua felt anxious.
After lunch, she saw there weren’t many people around the wayside pavilion and went to the small kitchen.
Grandma Wang was still in her old spot in front of the stove. Seeing Xiao Hua deep in thought, she pulled her into the small kitchen.
The kitchen was divided into two rooms. The outer room was the kitchen itself and the inner room was where Granny Wang slept.
Grandma Wang was old and slept little. While heating water was idle work, it meant having to stay in place. People came throughout the day for hot water, so Grandma Wang had renovated the inner room that used to store firewood. She had cleaned out a corner for a wooden bed and normally slept there.
This was Xiao Hua’s first time seeing the inner room. Two-thirds of it was occupied by neatly stacked firewood, and against the corner rested a wooden bed surrounded by a mosquito screen made of grey cloth. At the foot of the bed was a cabinet for storage, as well as two large chests.
“No one comes in here, it’s more convenient to talk.” Grandma Wang spoke as she pulled Xiao Hua over to sit on the side of the bed.
Seeing the simple and crude surroundings, without even a window for light, Xiao Hua felt it hard to bear and couldn’t help but say: “Granny Wang, living like this is way too difficult.”
Grandma Wang waved her hand carelessly, “A lonely old lady without any relatives, being granted some food by the estate is already pretty good. I feel this place isn’t bad. I don’t have to be bothered by outside things in here. Once I get too old and can’t move anymore, someone will even bestow a simple coffin for me to be buried in.”
Hearing Grandma Wang speak like this, Xiao Hua’s heart felt even more stifled.
Grandma Wang smiled and patted her head, “Why are you getting upset for this granny, little lass. It’s already a miracle this granny managed to live for so long…”
This was the first time Xiao Hua heard Grandma Wang talk about her own affairs. Grandma Wang was old, and had long since had an elderly appearance. Therefore, others always thought she was one of the estate’s old work maids, but that wasn’t really the case.
It was a pretty typical story. Grandma Wang wasn’t called Grandma Wang in the past. When she was young, she served as the personal maid of the estate master’s father. She was sold into the estate at a young age, and only after working for several years was she assigned to the old master’s side.
A typical beginning and a typical process. Grandma Wang became the old master’s chambermaid. Unfortunately, the old master was not typical. That is to say, he was not a benevolent person. His way of doing things was much harsher than that of the current estate master.
The old master was frivolous, with many women by his side. He was also a master who got tired of things quickly, liking the new and hating the old. Those he’d slept with many times were placed within the pavilion where he no longer spared them much thought. He would collect new people from the estate while his wife would dispose of them in the back. According to Grandma Wang, people would be gone without rhyme or reason. Some died of illness, others just disappeared.
Grandma Wang was similar to Xiao Hua in her previous life, also someone who has suffered enough and didn’t want to suffer anymore. It’s just her appearance couldn’t be said to be top notch, and wasn’t extremely favored by the old master. Still, having had such a long relationship, she still had some significance to the old master.
A few years passed like this, during which she had gotten pregnant several times. Yet each time would inexplicably result in a miscarriage, and after several miscarriages her health had started to fail. Upon realizing that she had lost favor with the old master, who hadn’t visited her room in a while, Grandma Wang knew she would shortly end up following the footsteps of those people. She gritted her teeth and pretended to have a fall, allowing the broken porcelain on the floor to scar her face. She had gone to the estate’s old madam to beg for a path to survival, willing to do any kind of work. The old madam saw that she was tactful, and with her health failing and face ruined she arranged a spot for her in a wayside pavilion as a common old maid, forbidding her from appearing before the old master in the future.
This was why Grandma Wang normally avoided seeing people, and had holed up in the same place for several decades. After she had gotten older and was unable to perform the common chores, she was arranged a job heating water. The water was normally fetched by the common maids, she herself only needed to watch the stove.