Xiao Hua carried the washbasin out of the kitchen and almost ran headlong into Bi Yuan who was standing outside the door.
Bi Yuan was 17 years old with a shapely face, large eyes, luscious lips, fair skin and a curvaceous figure. Her expression was slightly unnatural, having most likely overheard the conversation.
She glanced at Xiao Hua and merely said, “I didn’t see you when I awoke so I came to wash up.”
Xiao Hua’s expression remained neutral, and she did not point out how hard it would be for Bi Yuan to wash up while the room’s only washbasin was in her hands. She quietly said, “I just finished washing and was about to get big sis some water.”
After speaking, she left with Bi Yuan towards their room.
Xiao Hua was only 14 this year. She was unlike the other girls who were all well developed at 14. Apart from her height and her porcelain features, she could easily pass for a child with her skinny arms and legs, immature figure and budding breasts that could only be seen upon closer examination.
The bowl of water in her hands seemed perpetually at risk of spilling, or causing her skinny arms to snap.
Seeing this, Bi Yuan was reminded of the conversation she overheard. She found the sight of her struggling with the weight a little hard to bear, and took the basin from her hands.
“I’ll go wash up, go back first and tidy up a bit.”
Back in her room, Xiao Hua combed her hair back into a double bun, and rearranged the edges of her sleeves and skirt. Without adding any frills or jewelry, she sat on her bed waiting for Bi Yuan to return.
When Bi Yuan returned, she sat in front of the makeup box as she applied a layer of makeup, lined her eyebrows and applied some rouge on her lips. Only then did she look at Xiao Hua, who remained seated with her head lowered.
“Stand up, let me take a look.”
Xiao Hua lowered her eyes and stood for Bi Yuan’s inspection.
She wore the standard pale green maid outfit that was only given to the senior maids in the Jinyang Estate. Her palm-sized face contained eyes that were bright and large with a hint of charm. Her slender body exuded an impression of respect and timidity.
Apart from her beautiful pair of eyes, she was still a child.
Bi Yuan let out a sigh of relief in her heart.
When the young master suddenly elevated the yard sweeper girl to fill the open senior maid position, rumors spread that Xiao Hua only caught his eye by purposefully putting herself in his path and showing herself off. Bi Yuan had found it hard to swallow when the young master arranged for Xiao Hua to be placed in her room and requested that she watch over her. She had made up her mind to thoroughly discipline this unruly lass.
As it turned out, she was just a 14 year old, undeveloped child. She was respectful, dressed conservatively, and despite being at the age when girls liked to show off their beauty, she not so much as used a flower to embroider her hair, let alone put on makeup. After observing her for a couple days, Bi Yuan realized that this lass was one that didn’t stir up trouble and knew her place. Only then did she offer to show her the ropes.
Her promotion was probably due to her fresh appearance and charming eyes.
Having served the young master from a young age, Bi Yuan was aware that he had no lascivious tendencies. He merely enjoyed beauty in its various forms, and his personal maids all exemplified it in one way or another. Even the sweeper girls in his yard needed to look decent.
No matter how exquisite and delicate, what could a child possibly do? Especially one whose face was her only decent feature. Bi Yuan’s attention should be on Liu Ye and Cui Lan, the other senior maids who were slightly older.
Bi Yuan glanced at the brightening sky and turned to leave. “Let’s go.”
Xiao Hua remained silent and followed behind Bi Yuan as she walked out.
The Jinyang Marquis Estate occupied a large area of land. Just the backyard alone housed many pavilions. The Jinxiu Pavilion of the 4th young master Ruan Siyi was one of the most beautiful residences in the Estate, only losing out to the main pavilion of the lord marquis and madam, the Jingci pavilion of the old madam and the Honghao Pavilion of the main heir.
The Jinxiu Pavilion was a two compound pavilion with two entrances. There were two houses in the main yard. The first one belonged to the 4th young master’s wife, and the other to the 4th young master. Both houses included a small garden, to the side of which were the wayside pavilion of the servants, as well as an empty lateral pavilion intended for the young master’s future concubines.
The 4th young master was seventeen this year and recently married to his wife Qiao-Shi. 1 Qiao-Shi was not good looking, and was not well liked by the 4th young master. They got into an argument on their wedding day, and ended up awkwardly living in separate houses. This was known throughout Jinxiu Pavilion.
Having arrived at the second house, Bi Yuan and Xiao Hua lightly opened the door and entered.
The house consisted of three inner rooms. The east room was the bedroom, the west room the young master’s study, and the middle a living room with a square table, a few chairs and a calligraphy inscribed painting by the young master on the center wall, giving off an air of simplicity and tranquility.
Cui Lan, who was on duty the previous night, did not hand over her shift and leave upon seeing Bi Yuan arrive. Instead, she entered the bedroom, presumably to wake the young master.
Although the young master was married, he had yet to be given any official duties. His daily routine remained the same, learning from his teacher in the study room. Such was his life for over a decade, so there wasn’t really any opportunity for him to sleep in.
Bi Yuan glared darkly at Cui Lan’s back and followed her inside.
Xiao Hua ignored the tension between the two. Seeing as no one paid attention to her, she turned and ordered Xia Tong, the junior maid outside the door, to bring in the things their young master needed to wash up. She needed no directing since she was familiar with her duties from her past life.
Xia Tong glanced furtively at Xiao Hua, and left to complete her task.
At this moment, senior maid Liu Ye walked in.
Liu Ye was 17 this year. Tall and shapely, with large eyes and an elegant nose. Her hourglass figure turned many a head. She glanced at Xiao Hua upon entering, and without a word hurriedly entered the inner room.
Xiao Hua and Xia Tong carried the washbasin inside. Xia Tong placed it on the table, and left the room with her head lowered.
Junior maids were not permitted to enter the room casually without being summoned. They usually served outside the door, and even if they entered it would be for odd jobs and couldn’t remain for long. Especially not with three senior maids glaring by the side the way a tiger watches its prey. Despite being a senior maid, Xiao Hua chose to leave the room along with Xia Tong.
Only men, who were naturally oblivious to these things, failed to notice the sparks flying between the three girls inside.
Xiao Hua could make out the atmosphere inside even with her head lowered. Might as well retreat outside, and keep her distance like a good girl.
A few junior maids outside were setting up the table for breakfast. Seeing Xiao Hua come out, their lips curled in mockery. Xiao Hua pretended not to notice, and found a corner to silently stand in.
Moments later, escorted by the three senior maids, the 4th young master walked to the table and sat down. The junior maids dillied and dallied until Liu Ye could no longer tolerate it and let out a cough. They left with their heads bowed.
Xiao Hua already found the atmosphere hard to bear on her first day. How did she in her previous life put up with the hidden and overt competition between these women for so long?
She could only put up with it for now, having been brought back at such an unfortunate point in her life. Not earlier, not later, it just had to be the moment when the 4th young master decided to raise her up. Could she have refused the position? A sweeper girl who managed to reach the heavens after countless efforts, only to turn it down? Others would see her as some sort of freak.
Xiao Hua currently just wanted to avoid drawing attention to herself, so she could only tuck in her tail and behave.
Although Xiao Hua made great efforts to reduce her presence, it would be hard not to notice an extra person in the room. The 4th young master Ruan Siyi recalled the lass with the delicate face and charming eyes that he recently promoted.
“This is that little lass?” he directed the question at Bi Yuan.
Since he originally thought she looked promising, he handed her over for Bi Yuan to take care of.
Bi Yuan smiled and said: “Yes, young master. I’ve been taking Xiao Hua around for the past few days, and brought her to begin her duties now that I feel she’s competent enough.”
“I see.” The 4th young master left it at that and continued his meal.
In her past life, Xiao Hua had been eager to show herself off and had interrupted Bi Yuan, causing the young master to notice her. Then, due to her quick wits and her acting well-behaved, she was able to catch his eye on her first day at work. He quickly grew to enjoy having her serve by his side even more. Xiao Hua had achieved her goal, but in the process made herself a target for the other three senior maids. They felt threatened by her abilities at such a young age, and considering her unorthodox promotion, they decided to jointly try and force her out.
In this life, Xiao Hua continued to stand respectfully with her head lowered and did not act out. The 4th young master therefore put the girl, who in another life surprised him countless times, to the back of his mind.
With her eyes lowered, Xiao Hua let out a sigh of relief. The three sharp gazes circling about her head finally moved away.
The struggle between the senior maids had intensified. They did not just compete internally, but also worked together to prevent others from catching the young master’s eye. How was she so foolish in her previous life to have charged in head first without seeing the situation clearly? She didn’t even think to show some restraint after catching his eye, smugly rejoicing on the inside without realizing her thoughts were easily visible.
What was she thinking at the time?
Oh, right. After suffering for so many years, having been bought and sold repeatedly, she finally ended up in the cradle of wealth and prosperity known as the Jinyang Marquis Estate. She definitely had no intentions of leaving again. For the sake of putting all her bitter days behind her, and not having to be beaten and starved ever again, she rushed to become someone important after roughly understanding the situation.
Little did she know that under the peaceful surface of the Jinxiu Pavilion was a raging inferno.
It started with the newlywed wife not having the young master’s favor. Next was the news of an open spot for a maid in the young master’s residence. The Jinyang Marquis Estate had strict rules regarding the young masters. One was that prior to marriage, they were not allowed to have chambermaids. If any of the maids were caught fooling around with young masters who were not of age, the punishment ranged from expulsion to death by beating. Thus after the 4th young master’s marriage, all the maids in the pavilion started to become restless. When news of the opening spread, all the maids were breathless in anticipation. The three senior maids by his side also started to viciously compete.
A lass with no foundation who was sold into the Estate barged into this mess thoughtlessly. It was no wonder she became a target.
At the time, she didn’t understand why everyone was against her. She assumed that they were just jealous of her. Thus after feeling wronged for some time, she became even more smug and brazen, not knowing to exercise restraint.
Only after being beset by overt and hidden plots from all sides, and suffering many times, did she know to be afraid. But at that point, it was too late to retreat. She could only grab on tightly to the young master, crawling into his bed and obtaining his favor, seizing onto the slim chance of survival.
Xiao Hua always knew she was good looking, especially once her living conditions improved after entering the Estate. The young master had liked her from the get go, and she worked to adapt herself to suit his tastes more. As she grew, the young master grew to like her more and more. She lived the good life for a while in her past life, and the young master took her side in everything.
First as a chambermaid, then as a concubine despite not having given birth.
Thus she had grown evermore arrogant, offending countless others in the process. She did not know her cause of death up until the moment it happened. Only after reincarnating and thinking deeply did she realize –
One does not know the extent of one’s foolishness until disaster strikes.
Author’s note: The 4th young master isn’t the male lead.