The soup ended up going to Bi Yuan as Xiao Hua stood in the corner, her expression fluctuating erratically.
She didn’t react as Chun Tao came to deliver the soup, and only when the young master tried to “bestow” it upon her did she remember an already distant memory.
Previously around this time, Qiao-Shi had given the young master her handmade soup. Yet due to his dislike of her appearance even her gifts were viewed with disgust, and he had casually offered it to Xiao Hua instead.
Back then, she had just been promoted to senior maid and was certainly ecstatic at receiving the young master’s grace. She had accepted it without much thought, taking the opportunity to rub it in the faces of the other three senior maids who were always against her.
In the end, the soup ended up in her belly. Not only did it cause the other three maids to hate her even more, it was also a brutal blow to Qiao-Shi’s heart.
When Qiao-Shi found out, she called her over for questioning and found an excuse for Chun Tao to slap her across the face.
Having gotten the 4th young master’s ear at the time and having caught an undeserved blow to her face, Xiao Hua ran crying and complained to her master.
The 4th young master’s desire to protect the fairer sex was stirred and he ended up having a huge argument with his wife. The couple’s relationship became even more irreconcilable.
Due to her husband treating a maid better than his own wife, Qiao-Shi felt extremely wronged and could no longer sit still. No longer caring about her reputation, she ran off to find her mother in law, the Jinyang Marquis Estate’s madam, to mediate.
The madam thought it inappropriate to meddle too much in the married couple’s affairs, but was also at a loss towards her younger son’s attitude. She ended up ordering one of her senior maids to Jinxiu Pavilion and to punish the “main instigator” of the situation, hitting her 5 times with a plank. No matter what, a maid was a maid. To use her as a scapegoat to assuage the master’s anger was only natural.
While the master’s anger was indeed assuaged, Xiao Hua’s heart was filled with fear and resentment from the beating.
It was her first time being beaten by the plank. Despite having served in several households previously, how could these smaller households use a plank to punish their servants? Especially doing so in front of the entire pavilion, resulting in countless mockery and ridicule. The other three senior maids grew even bolder with their insults.
Xiao Hua let loose after that incident and decided not to string the 4th young master along anymore, climbing directly into his bed.
At the time she had simply reasoned that becoming the young master’s chambermaid would prevent anyone from beating her in the future. Furthermore, it would mean even better treatment from the young master going forward. Didn’t they enjoy ridiculing her? Let’s see them mock someone staying in the young master’s room.
It was a good plan, but reality was cruel. This move not only caused Qiao-Shi to thoroughly hate her, but was also adding oil to fire, causing the entire pavilion to boil over.
It wasn’t just the senior maids who couldn’t sit still, even the common maids began to stir. Bi Yuan ran off to seek council with her own parents, intending to have the madam place her into his room as well. Cui Lan and Liu Ye hated her on one hand, and tried to imitate her on the other and climb into his bed as well…
The Jinxiu Pavilion had been thrown into chaos.
At that time Qiao-Shi had just married in not long ago, and didn’t have the young master’s favor, making it impossible for her to control the servants. Her skin was also not thick enough to get the estate’s madam to come mediate a second time. Especially when considering the question: which major estate’s young master wasn’t sleeping with his maids? The principal wife could only watch while silently controlling and punishing on the side.
But exercising such control required support from the husband. Ever since she married in, the 4th young master had never once slept in her room. There wasn’t anyone in the pavilion who wasn’t laughing at her, and none of the maids took her seriously. She couldn’t coax her man and her mother-in-law felt her to be useless. She had ended up appealing to her grandmother-in-law, the estate’s old madam, acting cute and clever in front of her. The old madam took pity on her and helped her mediate a couple times, subjugating many of the pavilion’s maids in the process.
But it was too late. Not only did Xiao Hua take the opportunity to stabilize her position and become the young master’s chambermaid, the number of chambermaids in his room had even increased during this time.
Qiao-Shi was helpless, forced to grit her teeth and silently endure. Although she had her hidden schemes, they could not keep up with the 4th young master’s later debauchery. He went as far as to bring back a few prostitutes from the brothels, causing the Jinxiu pavilion to truly break out into a battle royale amongst flowers.
Recalling how she ended up working with Qiao-Shi and Bi Yuan to deal with the women that came in later, and turning their blades upon one another after, Xiao Hua couldn’t help being lost in thought…
The young master finished his meal and left for his afternoon nap. Only then did Bi Yuan drink the already cold soup in front of Cui Lan and Liu Ye. Their expressions were as one would expect.
Xiao Hua looked at Bi Yuan with some pity, not knowing if Qiao-Shi would let her off.
But considering Bi Yuan’s backers, Xiao Hua reasoned that Qiao-Shi wouldn’t be so foolish.
After all, Bi Yuan wasn’t Xiao Hua. She was born into the household. Her mother was one of the estate madam’s highly reputable senior maids and her father was a steward of the marquis. She had served the young master from a young age, and had a high reputation within the estate. If Qiao-Shi intended to scare the monkey by killing the chicken using Bi Yuan as the chicken, she would be made a laughing stock.
Today, the 4th young master went excitedly to the front yard and only returned in the middle of the afternoon. However, his expression was unpleasant, as though having argued with someone.
The senior maids inside the house didn’t dare make a sound, waiting upon him softly and quietly.
Upon returning, the young master went into his study and ordered that no one was to disturb him in the meantime.
The senior maids who were usually at odds had stopped glaring daggers at each other, and only looked around with eyes full of concern. Xiao Hua’s kept her eyes to her nose and nose to her chest, standing with her head bowed and pretended not to have seen anything.
The gloomy atmosphere remained throughout the afternoon. Xiao Hua who would normally go slack off also honestly remained on duty.
4th young master Ruan Siyi sat in the study, his elegant face warped and twisted, his heart unable to calm down for a long while.
Hearing his father’s words from this afternoon gave him the impulse to smash everything.
What a joke. His life had been smooth sailing up until this point, yet it was only now that he realized where his place was. If things really proceeded as his father planned, what was the point of all his previous hard work if he was just expected to work an idle job for the rest of his life?
Yet he had no choice but to accept it all, because he was a son of the Jinyang Marquis Estate.
The Grand Xi Dynasty had rules. The children of noble families were not allowed to rise up by taking the imperial examination. The talented could only receive a meritorious posting by obtaining a spot working for the emperor. Noble families would push for their main heirs to receive this position firstly to ensure their clans would not decline once the heir succeeded his father, and secondly to prevent the other sons from supplanting the main heir, causing strife in the family.
Although Ruan Siyi often praised himself as being smarter than others, he had failed to understand this concept up until today. When his father had informed him of his future posting, his disappointment caused him to continuously press his father for answers. Finally, his enraged father had let it slip. Only then did he understand the machinations involved.
Ruan Siyi thought about the other noble families’ situations for a long time, and finally buried his pain-filled face into his hands.
His blood related brother, who had always looked out for him, was the heir. How could he fight with him?
He had sought out his mother after arguing with his father, and like a child he had poured his heart out. He recalled what his mother said –
“Siyi, mother loves you and your brother both equally, since I was the one that carried you guys for 10 months. However, you should know that this large estate does not just have the two of you, but also the sons birthed by those concubines…”
How could he not understand? It was what the noble families feared most: instability in the hearts of the commoners. Of course there were examples of families who weren’t clear on this concept. They all ended up filled with unending internal strife as everyone fought for the title of nobility, resulting in their decline.
Although he understood the reasoning, it was ultimately still hard to accept.
Thinking of how his parents had spoiled him from birth, he realized they were probably trying to turn him into someone unambitious. It was unfortunate that he understood too late, having foolishly wasted over a decade studying daily and improving himself. His parents probably felt awkward about it, but wasn’t sure how to tell him in advance…
It wasn’t until the sky turned dark that the 4th young master left the study. His expression had also returned to normal.
Bi Yuan asked whether they should set the table, and the young master smiled and nodded as usual.
At that moment, everyone felt relieved.
Xiao Hua snuck a glance at the 4th young master’s face as she left to fetch the food. She felt that there was unrest hidden beneath the surface, but what could be the cause? She was unable to figure it out at the moment.
Having delivered the food, Xiao Hua took the opportunity to leave.
In any case, her shift had already ended. The other three were eager for her to leave. They had always turned a blind eye to her leaving on the dot and didn’t hate iron for not turning to steel.
She felt the junior maids behind gazing at her back, hating that same iron for not turning to steel. Xiao Hua smiled evilly. She was probably the first senior maid ever who “followed rules to the letter” and left her shift on the dot.
Yet what did it matter? She wasn’t like the others who wanted to climb the ranks, and she also didn’t want to fight for the young master’s favor. In fact, if her master was female she would still serve loyally while hoping to meet a good husband.
For now, it was better to let go. Let others have the juicy meat. She was satisfied with what she had.
Apart from Xiao Hua, no one seemed to notice the 4th young master had changed slightly. Based on her previous and current lives, Xiao Hua’s conclusion was: “has the young master become aware of his situation?”
Yet no one answered her, and there was no way she could ask. She just needed to watch and stay out of it.
Today after lunch, the young master did not retire for his nap. In a rare display, he pulled the three senior maids to his study and sketched portraits of them.
Xiao Hua went to eat her own lunch, then came back and stood outside the door like a statue.
It was high noon, and the sun shone warmly while a gentle breeze blew. Xiao Hua started to feel sleepy while listening to the chittering and chattering coming from the study.
The few junior maids stood by the flowerbeds whispering to each other. Xiao Hua could hear them but acted as though she couldn’t.
She didn’t have to listen to know what they were talking about. Bi Yuan and the other two foxes had mesmerized the young master so much that his personality flipped. The other maids were most likely muttering with jealousy, which she chose to overlook as long as they didn’t pull her into it.
Ever since the day Bi Yuan drank the soup, the young mater’s wife Qiao-Shi’s side had shown no response. Xiao Hua guessed that things had changed since the last time, or it could be due to her not jumping out rashly this time. Regarding how the pavilion would develop in the future, she was now in the dark as well. Looking at the scene today, things would get messy sooner or later.
What could she do as a maid but watch from the side without getting involved? She had no way to fix things.