Chapter 5: An ugly daughter-in-law can’t avoid meeting her mother-in-law forever
Xiao Shi claimed her mistress was unwell and thus asleep to all comers. The old servants didn’t bother examining matters beyond that and left quickly. However, a runner came an hour later, bearing summons for Bai Xiangxiu. Apparently, the Old Madame and the lord were in the front courtyard with something important to to tell her.
As a result, Xiao Shi was forced to shake Bai Xiangxiu awake. The latter dressed absentmindedly, curious about this unexpected development, “It’s already this late. What do they need with me at this time?”
Xiao Shi whispered back, “Apparently someone is in deep trouble. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but you’ll find out when you go.”
Knowing she was about see the male lead was making Bai Xiangxiu feel very uncomfortable. But an ugly daughter-in-law couldn’t avoid meeting her in-laws forever! They lived under the same roof, so they were bound to meet. She wasn’t worried about the male lead becoming involved with her, the male lead had too lofty an ego for that.
When a certain woman had run off to avoid the arranged marriage, all he had cared about was bringing her back. Otherwise, he showed no interest in the concubines housed in his rear court. As a result, she had little to no expectations of him. Realistically, he probably wouldn’t even look twice at her.
As a matter of fact, she was actually a bit curious. When she read the novel, she’d considered the male lead’s character to be quite good. Obviously, she wouldn’t have kept reading otherwise. Now that she was an actual spectator, it probably wasn’t a bad idea to ogle a hot man.
Thinking of this, she allowed Xiao Shi to dress and tidy her up. Afterwards, Xiao Shi slowly supported her as they made their way towards the front hall. The front hall was the main hall of the back courtyard; it was where the Old Madame handled affairs.
Although the concubines were legitimate wives, since the male lead had just returned from battle, and they’d only just moved to a new home, the concubines had yet to be assigned proper personnel. Normally, each concubine would be assigned a head servant and a minor servant. Since Mistress Xiu had just arrived, she was yet to be assigned a minor servant girl.
As for palanquins or similar litters, the old madame was the only one with that privilege. The concubines could only rely on their feet to travel. As Bai Xiangxiu walked towards the front hall, she couldn’t help but admire the scenery. Deep down, simple awe suffused her heart. The beauty of the ancient gardens was definitely incomparable to those in the modern world.
This was her field to begin with. She couldn’t help but slow down to take in the mesmerizing sights. Xiao Shi started to grow worried, trying to rush her along, “Mistress Xiu, the Old Madame had asked us to come and we cannot be late. Please hurry.”
Bai Xiangxiu could find no fault in those words. She decided to hurry, lifting her skirt with one hand. She had to, the skirt was too long and made walking very inconvenient. Xiao Shi started to sweat profusely on the side. She panicked, “Put it down! Please put it down. That’s too indelicate, Mistress!” Recently, she’d noticed her mistress becoming more and more casual. Not only behavior, her speech wasn’t as formal as before either.
Bai Xiangxiu crinkled her brows as she retorted, “You want me to be graceful and walk fast at the same time. Why don’t you just install wheels under my feet then? That way, I could be fast and not lift up my skirt.”
“Mistress Xiu, you’re making ridiculous statements again. Why would you install wheels on someone’s feet?” Xiao Shi responded patiently as she held onto her mistress’ arm. Xiao Shi was worried her mistress would step on her skirt and trip again. She’d tripped countless times over the past couple of days due to the dress.
“Ai ya....” Bai Xiangxiu nearly fell again. Fortunately, Xiao Shi had a firm grip on her held onto her. She couldn’t help but curse angrily, “Whoever that invented this long skirt was clearly trying to ruin the lives of females. His corpse deserved to be whipped a hundred times. A hundred times!” Someone could trip and die, alright? Luckily Xiao Shi held onto me. Or else, my nose would’ve been bruised and my face swollen.
“Speak cautiously, please speak cautiously, Mistress. Your servant is here to support you. We’ll walk slowly.” Xiao Shi felt a bit helpless in the face of her mistress’ unpredictable temper. She could only coax her mistress slowly. Bai Xiangxiu was left with no choice. As the saying went, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Freaking bummer.
After they walked by, five men strode in, taking shelter from the intermittent rain. Amongst the group, two masters and three servants, Song Jiaoyue had a fan covering his face, but his eyes were smiling, “A woman from Prince Li’s harem alright. That’s.. violent.” And she wanted to whip the corpse a hundred times too. With that tiny body, she’s panting just from walking. She probably couldn’t even lift the whip.
Long Heng, titled Prince Li, had a frozen expression on his face. Although he was handsome, it couldn’t conceal his cold demeanor. Song Jiaoyue’s comment caused him some embarrassment, “Sorry to make you witness that.” Although they were friends, what they had just witnessed did slightly affect his manly pride.
But she was just a concubine, what was she thinking? And whipping a dead body to boot? He quirked an eyebrow at his servant behind him, “Which courtyard is she from?”
“That was Mistress Xiu from Winter Garden. Her family has a... literary reputation.” The servant felt like he must have heard wrong! How could a lady with a literary background walk around talking about whipping a corpse? That was bizarrely monstrous.
Long Heng didn’t say another word as he lifted his hand to gesture into the distance, “I have some family issues to deal with, wise younger brother. Please head to the pavilion and rest there for now.”
“Alright. But today, you’re treating me to wine.” Song Jiaoyue and Long Heng were legends in the civil and martial subjects respectively in the imperial court. They were also friends, so they treated each other very casually. Long Heng nodded and headed towards the front hall after sending Song Jiaoyue off.
Everyone was mostly accounted for in the hall when he arrived. He caught a glimpse of the woman who’d nearly taken a spill earlier, Mistress Xiu, and noticed her head hung low, so low it didn’t seem it could go any lower. She was focused on her nose nose, which was focused on her mouth, and her mouth was focused on her heart. She looked extremely sincere and well behaved. If he hadn’t witnessed that scene outside, he definitely would’ve fallen for her guileless appearance. But her appearance truly was exceptional. Although all the women in the courtyard were attractive, there wasn’t a single person who could surpass her beauty.
This type of woman was a disaster. Any history book would inform him so. He looked away and turned to greet the old madame, “Mother”. Then, he sat down next to her as he coldly gazed at the young lady in front of him, shivering on her knees.
Bai Xiangxiu didn’t know what was going on. But she snuck a look at the male lead when no one was paying attention to her.
Sure enough, the male lead was a perfect combo of riches, looks, and rigidity. He was wearing an embroidered black brocade, and it hid none of his physique. Although dressed stunningly, he didn’t look the least bit womanly. He had the aura of a soldier, and he was super, super cool. It was too bad that he was too cold and too cool. She was too cowardly to take a longer look.
She also snuck a look at the old madame. In her forties, the old madame seemed to favor expressions that hovered around the cold side. Together, the mother and son duo looked like a pair of icebergs. With the two together, the temperature in the room immediately plunged, like air conditioning air drifting across her toes. The feeling was awful. Bai Xiangxiu shivered silently and continued looking down to count ants; she didn’t dare take another peek.
The male lead was talented and cool. He had his own halo of light as the main character as well. But she didn’t dare to hope for anything. She was too afraid of being beaten to death.
As she was thinking, the old servant beside the old madame spoke up, “I’m sure you are all familiar with this one here. Xi’er was quite well behaved while she was serving the old madame. That was why she was sent to serve the lord. Yet, this little bitch had ulterior motives and dared to tamper with his incense. Who is the lord? He walked the line of life and death in the battlefield. Did you think you’d be able to fool with this kind of cheap trick?”
“Old madame, Highness, this servant will never dare to do anything like that again! Please spare me!” Truthfully, Xi’er really liked Prince Li. What type of person wouldn’t be attracted to a person like him?
Honestly, she tampered with the incense because she originally wanted to be the first of his women to be bedded by him. She just wanted to gain his love and care. Yet, unexpectedly, he’d noticed the change immediately and had her arrested, hauling her in front of the old madame.
This was supposed to be a private matter. But the old madame was making it into such a high profile case. She could tell her chances of survival were quickly dropping with every second, but she had to do her best. She was currently kneeling and knocking her forehead to the ground nonstop. The skin on her forehead had broken from the repeated harsh impact.
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