Chapter 448 - Half-truth

The next day, Lady Li delivered a message to Count Zhongqin’s (Author’s note: New title awarded to Fang Zizhen) Estate about their visit.

When Lady Fang received Lady Li’s message, she looked strangely at the maidservant who brought the message over, “The assistant minister of the Ministry of Appointments sent a message over? When did our general ever have any relationship with Assistant Minister Li?” 

The maidservants thought about it and all shook their heads. Zhenzhu said, “Madam, don’t you always say that the general doesn’t like to interact with those civil officials? Those scholars all speak in a genteel manner and have a stomach full of schemes. It’s tiring to listen to them speak!” 

Lady Fang knew that her husband didn’t have a close relationship with any of the officials in court because he used to be a commander under General Zhao in the previous dynasty. Normally, their household only interacted with some of her close friends and matrons who liked flora. She had never met this Lady Li before, okay? 

“One wouldn’t come for no reason. For what reason would this Lady Li come over today?” Lady Fang muttered to herself.

Hupo spoke without thinking, “I reckon she’s a weasel paying respects to a chicken—she has ill-intentions!”

“What are you saying? Even if she wants to be a weasel, I, your mistress, am not willing to be a ‘chicken’!” Lady Fang glared at her and pretended to be angry. 

Hupo hastily smacked her mouth and begged for mercy, “Look at this servant’s mouth. I can’t control it! This servant has said the wrong thing, so please punish me, Madam!” 

“I’ll let it go this time! In the future, remember to be cautious with your words, lest you cause trouble outside. I might not be able to help you even if I want to!!” Lady Fang was usually quite tolerant of her maidservants, who had mostly grown up around her. However, she would still discipline them when needed.

Linglong hurriedly came out to help her, “This servant thinks that Lady Li’s visit might have something to do with Young Miss.” 

“Cao’er? Since coming to the capital, Cao’er has either been working at the Imperial Plantation or playing with Lin’er at home. She seldom came in contact with the families of other officials in the capital. How would she know Lady Li?” Xiaocao was afraid that her godmother would be worried, so when she got back from the flower banquet, she didn’t tell her about her unpleasant matters and only reported the good things that happened. She told her that she had invited Royal Princess Minglan and the capital’s ‘Two Beauties’ for an outing at the Imperial Plantation. She didn’t mention anything about the incident with Li Meirou. 

Linglong pondered for a moment, and then said, “Although Young Miss had no contact with Lady Li, she did have a friction with the young miss of the Li Family at the flower competition banquet last time…” 

“What? Did the daughter of the Li Family bully our Cao’er?” Lady Fang sat up straight and looked at the message with a frown. She was deliberating on whether she should let Lady Li wait outside for a while! Lady Fang felt that she had a rather good understanding of her goddaughter’s personality. That kid Xiaocao would never deliberately cause trouble, but if someone provoked her, she wasn’t someone who would take it sitting down. 

Sure enough, Linglong pursed her lips into a smile and said, “Madam, would that Young Miss Li be able to bully our young miss? Of course, she got roasted by Young Miss!” 

Lady Fang threw the visiting message aside and asked with interest, “Oh? Quickly tell me what happened.” 

Linglong told her about how Li Meirou tried to use the young miss’s family background to insult and ostracize the young miss, but she ended up being retorted and rendered speechless by the young miss. In the end, she was the one who was ostracized by the other noble young misses. Their family’s young miss, on the other hand, left a good impression on Royal Princess Minglan and the ‘Two Beauties’. 

“Excellent!” Lady Fang hit the table, and the smile on her face deepened, “Humph! In what way is Assistant Minister Li’s family background better? He’s just a poor scholar who can’t do anything by himself. Had it not been for his in-laws providing financial assistance, he wouldn’t even have enough travel expenses to come take the exam in the capital! At the beginning of our dynasty, there was a lot that needed to be done and the imperial court was in urgent need of talents. This was the reason why someone like Assistant Minister Li, who had just done well in the primary rounds of the imperial examination, was able to stay in the capital! In the previous dynasties, people like Assistant Minister Li would have been sent to a post outside the capital. It would be extremely difficult to get a position as an official in the capital without working for a decade or two! Li Meirou’s maternal grandparents’ family is merely a local squire, so that lass also grew up in the rural area. How many years has it been since she came to the capital? She’s already putting up airs and looking down on others?! Who does she think she is?!” 

“No wonder the young miss said that the more one feels inferior, the more one will attack others in order to seek a balance in their hearts. This Young Miss Li is probably one of these people!” Linglong quite agreed with her young miss’s theory. 

Lady Fang looked at her trusted personal maidservant with amusement. Linglong was a thorough and prudent worker, so she had sent her to help her daughter with several errands. She hadn’t expected that this girl had gradually become a strong supporter of her daughter.    

There was no shortage of maidservants in her daughter’s courtyard, but there wasn’t a supervising matron. At the beginning of spring next year, Linglong would be eighteen, which was a marriageable age. Lady Fang was pondering about which young steward in the estate had a bright future and would be a good person to betroth Linglong to. Later, one could work in the outer court, while the other could serve her daughter. After gaining a few years of experience the couple could accompany her daughter when she got married. One could manage the affairs of the outer court, while the other could manage the inner court… 

After being stared at by her mistress for a long time, Linglong felt somewhat perplexed as she asked, “Madam, did this servant say something wrong?” 

“No!” Lady Fang thought about it and decided to test the girl to see what she had planned for the future. If she wanted to leave and return to a normal status, she wouldn’t insist on making her stay, “Linglong, you’re not young anymore! Do you have someone you like?” 

The sudden question from the madam caused Linglong’s entire face to flush up. She quickly changed the topic with slight embarrassment, “Madam, Assistant Minister Li’s wife is still waiting outside! Do you want to see her? Please give me an answer!”

Lady Fang chuckled and said, “Alright, alright! Today isn’t the right time, so I’ll let you go for now! But, you should also have something in mind. With your status as a head maidservant in the count’s estate and pretty appearance, it would be a waste for you to just marry into a poor, humble family! Of course, if you want to stay in the estate, I’ll ask the master if there’s any promising young stewards in the outer court…” 

“Madam…” Linglong’s face was as red as the sunset at dusk. She tried her best to shift away from the topic, “I heard that Assistant Minister Li and his wife have spoiled their daughter rotten. Do you think that Lady Li is coming to help get justice for Young Miss Li?” 

“Seek justice?” Lady Fang snorted coldly and said, “If she dares to mention the incident at the flower competition, then I’ll rip into her! How long has it been since their family got rid of their identity as country bumpkins, yet they’re already looking down on my daughter? Go! ‘Invite’ that Lady Li in. I shall meet her!” 

At this time, Assistant Minister Li’s wife was in the carriage reminding Li Meirou, who was dressed as a maidservant, “Rou’er, Mother knows that you feel wronged! However, for you to be so understanding, your father will definitely make it up to you in the future! Later, if you’re too embarrassed to speak up, then just lower your head and appear as if you understand your mistake. No matter what that female official says, you must endure it…” 

“Mother, I understand!” Li Meirou’s heart was full of hatred. What exactly was so good about that despicable wretch for Royal Prince Yang to protect her?! Not to mention that Royal Prince Yang was a member of the imperial family, but he was also someone trusted and favored by the emperor. Although she usually stayed at home, she had also heard that Royal Prince Yang was a man who would seek revenge for the smallest grievance. If they offended him, her father’s future would be completely ruined! 

Li Meirou was taken to the capital when she was six. At that time, she could already remember and understand things. After experiencing the prosperity of the capital and the joy brought to her from power and influence, she didn’t want to return to that small and backward place. She wouldn’t be able to stay there for even a moment. She didn’t want to leave the capital. Didn’t she just have to apologize to that lowly wretch?! Even Han Xin [1] had to suffer the humiliation of crawling under someone’s legs. For the sake of her father’s future and her own future, she decided to bear the humiliation! 

After preparing herself mentally, Li Meirou appeared very well-behaved. This made Lady Li very happy, yet her heart also ached for her daughter. 

“Later, when we enter the estate, I will accidentally knock over the handwarmer so that you can go change your clothes. In this way, others would think that I came to Count Zhongqin’s Estate with two maidservants. Your friends won’t know about you coming to apologize to Official Yu…” Lady Li was worried sick about how to help her daughter save face. 

Li Meirou hesitated for a moment, and then whispered, “Mother, do you think that girl with the surname Yu will spread this out? Using my humiliation to improve her reputation?” 

Lady Li pondered for a moment and said, “Later, I’ll talk to that Official Yu. If she’s really that kind of person, Mother will think of another way to handle the situation!” 

When Linglong invited them in, Lady Li came down from the horse carriage with her daughter, who was dressed as a maidservant, and her personal maidservant. 

“Lady Li, sorry for the wait! Our young master likes to pester people in the morning, and our madam just managed to pacify him! Linglong looked at Li Meirou, who had her head bowed. She felt that the maidservant looked somewhat familiar, so she looked at her again. 

Lady Li stepped forward to block her line of sight and said with a smile, “Children like to cling to others at this age, but it’s just for these two years. When they get older, it will be difficult to get them to be so close to you!” 

Sure enough, after they entered the estate, Lady Li ‘accidently’ knocked over the handwarmer in her hands, and the silvery ashes inside soiled her clothes. She pretended to apologize and said, “Just look at me. As I get older, my hands and feet aren’t as nimble as before. I can’t meet Lady Fang in such a state. It’s so impolite! Young lady, can you find a room for me to change my clothes first?” 

It had only been a few days since the flower competition, so Linglong still had a rather deep impression of Li Meirou. At that time, she had already recognized Li Meirou, who was dressed as a maidservant. Seeing Lady Li’s action, she already knew her plan. She sneered in her heart, ‘Acting in such a sneaky manner, they definitely aren’t coming to cause trouble. If Li Meirou was in the right, they would definitely make it known to the whole world.’ 

On second thought, in the past two days, Royal Prince Yang had announced that his fruits and vegetables shops would never sell their goods to Assistant Minister Li’s Household in order to avenge her young miss. Could it be that this pair of mother and daughter had come because of this matter? If she frankly admitted her mistake, her young miss might be benevolent and let the matter go. But, upon seeing this mother-daughter pair put up this act, Linglong inwardly made an assessment of this Young Miss Li, ‘She wants to be a b*tch, but she also wants to look honorable!’

[1] Han Xin (韩信) - famous military general who served Liu Bang during the Chu–Han Contention and contributed greatly to the founding of the Han Dynasty

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Translator: Myst