Legend of Concubine's Daughter Minglan

Chapter 70: Sisterhood

Chapter 70: Sisterhood

Translator: Iris

Proofread by DragonRider

At the beginning of February, as air teemed with spring chill, tender green buds shot out from branches. Minglan was in high spirits and decided to write calligraphy to welcome the arrival of spring. She laid out the table that had been put aside for the whole winter and ordered Danju to carefully grind thick ink for her. She just wrote down the first sentence of the poem “Behind bamboo two or three sprays of peach-tree grow...” when Molan came in. Minglan put down the writing brush in a hurry to welcome her in.

As they small-talked for a while, Molan caught sight of the marble table installed with malus spectabilis carved with rose wood. On the table paved snow-while paper with wet ink on it. Molan smiled, “Sorry to have bothered you.” Minglan laughed, “Not at all. I just wrote for fun.”

Molan walked to the table and picked up the paper, criticizing, “How dare to write with a huge brush?! If you lack of strength to make strokes stretch, the characters would huddle in a mess!”

Being criticized right in the face, Minglan muttered, “I’m only good at regular script that I practice through copying Buddhist scripture.” Come on. How could her calligraphy that had been learnt during after-class time for gaining extra scores for college entrance exam compare to that of an art-pursuer practicing day and night?

Molan took a scornful glance at Minglan. Without saying anything, Molan took the brush and, by several waves, continued the poem, “When spring has warmed the stream, ducks are the first to know.”. Indeed, the characters looked well-rounded and powerful, much better than those written by Minglan. Yet, though Minglan didn’t know how to write, she could tell that Molan’s were not as good as those of Old Madam’s.

Of course, Minglan still exclaimed for her and tried all means to flatter Molan who, looking at her own calligraphy, was quite complacent and continued to write. The moment she finished the last character—adding a thick point to the character “time”, Rulan came in. At the sight of Molan, she frowned, “Why are you here?”

Minglan had no time to comment on the last stroke and hurriedly welcomed Rulan into the room. Yancao had already got used to this and went to prepare tea before receiving order. Molan put down the brush and walked up from behind the table, smiling, “You can come here. Why can’t I?” Minglan at once joked about herself in order to soften the climate, “That’s because my place is too nice with great tea, great refreshment, and in particular, a great master.”


Molan and Rulan spat at her together.

They didn’t pay attention as to since when the three sisters began to gather often in the House of Clear Dusk. In truth, Rulan’s House of Carefree was most luxurious and comfortable, but every time Molan entered, she would smirk it as being “flashy and gaudy”. Molan’s House of Mountain Moon was most elegant and simple with piles of paper, brushes and other writing tools everywhere, but Rulan would criticize her as a “fake pedant”. Therefore, after a few rounds of chat, war began. Only Minglan was thick-skinned enough to endure this with shrugging shoulders.

Rulan walked behind the table to take a look at the characters. Though she could not judge whether they were good or not, she had to made some comments, “Why don’t you use swallow paper? I remember that uncle sent many during the Spring Festival.” Minglan collected her handkerchief and replied nervously, “That’s too expansive. For practicing, it’s not necessary.”

Molan snorted, “Calligraphy is all about writing technique. Even Orchid Pavilion Forewords by Wang Xizhi was written on normal paper and still passed on through ages. Do you think it’s only because of the paper?”

Minglan quickly cut in, “Both of your words make sense, but my poor writing technique only deserves such normal paper. Next time, if you want to practice calligraphy here, don’t forget to bring your own paper and brushes.”

She didn’t fear of their fighting but they’d better not make the House of Clear Dusk the battlefield. Last time they had a fight, Molan grasped and threw away a rouge box with enamel inlay while Rulan broke three beauty cups painted with pink and green glaze. She felt too awkward to ask for compensation and was really sad for the loss.

Yancai came up with a tea tray, followed by Danju who held a basket of refreshment. Minglan pulled the two sisters to the table and smiled, “These are red-bean-paste snacks Fang Mama made yesterday and I took some from Old Madam’s place. Have a try, sisters.”

Molan commented a little on the tea as usual and Rulan also found fault with the refreshments as she used to. Finally, the tension eased.

After a few sentences, they touched on the visitors that came yesterday. Rulan said, “Mother said that Old Madam He has excellent healing skills. She felt Old Madam’s pulse after some chat, so we weren’t called up to greet them.”

Molan stroked tea leaves with the lid and smiled, “I heard that the young lord He that came along is also a doctor; alas, it’s good to be a doctor, but even if he could make it to the Imperial Hospital and became the head, the official ranking is still no more than fifth-rank.”

Rulan snorted, “Don’t see a doctor for a life time if you can!” Molan ignored her and only looked at Minglan, smiling suggestively, “Yet, he has a clean family background and simple families.”

Minglan lowered her head to drink tea and made no reply. Rulan knew nothing and started a new topic, “On the day after tomorrow, we’ll go to Guangji Temple. Sixth younger sister, did you figure out what to wear? I’m going to wear the big hairpin inlaid with pears that big sister gave me. The prawn-shaped head would bounce up and down. What fun!”

Minglan laughed, “As for me, I’m going to wear the silver lotus hairpin inlaid with jade.” Rulan twitched her nose, despising, “It’s too cheap. Don’t you want to bring disgrace to our family? If you don’t have valuable jewelries, I’ll lend you one!” She sounded really overriding.

Minglan didn’t care, so she put down the tea cup, and looked serious, “Our purpose is to offer incense and pray for blessing. Be careful your golden brilliance might dazzle Buddhas and they might not listen to your prayers. Bring disgrace? Be careful of being robbed. That would really bring fame to our family!”

Rulan glared at her, “In the capital under the feet of the Emperor, who dares to rob? I’ve been struck in room for many days. I’m going to hang around wearing Madam’s hairpin inlaid with gold and pearl necklace.” Her showing off oozed out of words.

“Oh, good heavens. What you wear on yourself could make a jewelry shop. My good fifth elder sister, please show some mercy to your poor neck!” Minglan made fun of her who reached out to pinch Minglan’s face and Minglan dodged at once.

Seeing the two laughing and playing happily together, Molan felt a bit isolated, so she said coldly, “In the past, we’d go to offer incense in the first lunar month, but this year it’s postponed until recently. What’s the fun in it? Why so happy?”

Rulan immediately turned back and retorted, “Old Madam said that in the bustling and hustling capital, it’s not convenient to join the crowd and offer incense in the first month of new year in case of any possible accident! You think it’s still in Deng Prefecture that we can drive away all irrelevant people inside and outside the temple? What if we were seen by philanderers?”

Molan chuckled, “My good sister, did you just watch too much drama and overthink like this? Many noble families go to offer incense in the first month. Even if our guards were not strict enough, those nobilities have stricter guards. What to fear of? Old Madam is too cautious. After all she is getting older.”

The words made Minglan a little uncomfortable and she frowned, “Aren’t there philanderers among nobles? You’re so pretty that everyone would fall in love with. We’d better not make troubles for father and brothers.” Coldness was discernible in the tone.

Molan choked at the words, biting her teeth, “What do you mean younger sister?”

Minglan smiled, “What do you think?”

Molan glared at Minglan who didn’t give in a bit. Rulan was excited about the situation but felt pitiful that the two just stared at each other for a while before Minglan looked away and smiled gently, “I mean that seniors thought more than we did. We as children should listen to them.”

Molan sat down in a huff. Rulan didn’t watch enough of this and was about to add some fuel when suddenly the curtain was lifted up and sneaked in a good-looking small girl. It was Xique that served near Rulan. She bowed to the young ladies and reported to Rulan with a smile, “Fifth young lady, Madam wants you.”

Rulan patted on her own face and shouted, “Alas, I forgot! Madam asked me to help her with account books.” Then she deliberately looked at the other two, quite complacent, “...forth elder sister and sixth younger sister, I have to go now.” Then she left in a hurry.

Only after she walked far away did Molan thump upon the table and complain with hatred, “Look how proud she is! Madam is too biased!”

Minglan took up the tea cup, gently blew the tea, and replied, “Concubine Lin teaches you to read and write. Madam teaches fifth elder sister how to manage domestic affairs and keep accounts. I learn embroidering from Fang Mama. Isn’t this good?”

Molan looked at Minglan and felt that her fist was met with a cloud of cotton. With anger in her stomach, she satirized, “It’s said that the young lord He’s grandfather has retired and, in the family, only his uncle is a governor in a southern province. I wonder whether he would take care of his nephew or not.”

Minglan said nothing in response and put down the tea cup after Molan finished, slightly turning around to look directly to Molan and saying seriously, “Do you remember the Meiyun from Deng Prefecture?”

Molan didn’t expect that Minglan should mention this. Shocked for a while, she answered, “Yes. What?”

Minglan slowly said, “Sister Meiyun is the concubine born daughter of Governor Liu. Madam Liu is kind and merciful. Yet, Meiyun married a poor local scholar last year.” Seeing that Molan didn’t understand, Minglan continued, “Not just her, who do the concubine born daughters you knew during the years we lived in Deng prefecture marry?”

Molan gradually understood what Minglan meant and her face turned sullen., her slim eyebrows forming sharp angles. Minglan went on, “Speaking of that, the luckiest is sister Yunzhu who just married a legal son of one of her father’s colleagues. And the reason why she could marry that guy is because his mother doesn’t have a daughter of her own and treats sister Yunzhu as her own. As for others, sister Jin’e married a middle-aged official as his concubine. Lucky for her that the official has no son previously. Sister Ruichun married a local councilor. The most pitiful is Shunniang and her sister. Country magistrate Qian is a greedy and lustrous man who cares only himself and is never interested in his concubine born children’s life or death. Thus, they two were dealt with by his wife. One was sent to Shandong provincial procurator to become his concubine and the other married, in the countryside, a rich old man in his fifties, also as a concubine, in exchange for a lot of bridal money...”

Molan remembered the girls that she knew before. Beautiful and delicate, yet in a wink all disappeared in wind. The thought made her depressed. Minglan sighed, “Those permitted to get out and socialize are valued, so other concubine born daughters that aren’t allow to walk out of home must live in even worse condition that we couldn’t imagine. Big sister married to a marquis family and her friends in the capital are all decent people, but how can we compare with them?”

Being a legal daughter was more advantageous than an illegal one lied in not just family background and education, but in that a legal daughter was a position easy to both guard and attack. By proper social connection, they might even marry to the imperial family. However, illegal daughters were faced with different future. They were in a position neither too high nor too low, living in the same society with the legal daughters, meeting with the same people and living the same life, yet in the end, after getting married, their lives turned poles apart and the sense of loss it brought through comparison was horrible.

Molan claimed with confidence, “We’re different from other concubine born daughters. Father is a capable official and our brothers are talented achievers.” Pausing for a second, she continued in a low voice, “Don’t judge people like that. In terms of learning and exterior, how am I no better than others? I just didn’t come out of a belly of a madam. Look at Changdong. He is even looked down upon by servants. If I don’t act smart, I’ll face the same situation as his. Why should I be inferior to others for a life time?”

Minglan suddenly felt smothered, so she stood up to open the window, replying gently, “I hope your wish will come true.” What was the difference between aggressive and ambitious? One flying high would be hurt hard. What if she failed? As sister, Minglan tried best to persuade her. If she insisted on her way, any consequence couldn’t be blamed on Minglan who wasn’t a goddess after all.