As they arrived at the house prepared by Zhao Shi, Shen Ninghua gave a cold smile.
Nanny Zhou secretly peeked at Shen Ninghua’s expression, but could not see any change in reaction. “Young miss, madam has originally prepared Luomei house for young miss, but the Zhao family’s miss visits often, and not to mention that everyone is busy preparing for the old lady’s birthday banquet. There is a shortage of people, so do forgive us, young miss.”
“Nanny worry too much, I know Mother is busy with her responsibilities. This place is suitable. Qingque, please see Nanny Zhou out.”
“Yes, young miss.”
Bairuo tidied the house before serving a cup of tea, “young miss, the yard here may be wide, but this is not a good place to live in.”
Zhao shi was a clever person, she would not let Ninghua have any complaints on her living quarters. The yard here was spacious and the scenery was not bad. But the house here was called Jingxin Garden, and was only separated from the servants’ living quarters by two mere walls. Although it was not against any regulations, but for the Eldest Daughter to live in such an isolated area was unheard of.
Honglin huffed in defiance, “This must have been done on purpose! Young miss, I surveyed the area. We are not far away from where the servants stay. What if the First Lady* arranged for someone to climb over the wall and ruin young miss’s reputation?”
* See TL notes
Bizhu covered her mouth and laughed silently. She knew Honglin was going to get reprimanded again. Among the four of them, Honglin was the youngest. Her martial skills were not as good as Qingque, and yet she could not be as mindful and attentive as Bairuo, need not even mention her abilities to manage inventory like Bizhu. She would always speak her mind, but the young miss was extremely forgiving towards her.
As expected, Bairuo glared at Honglin and scolded, “shut your mouth! One day I am going to personally teach you proper manners.”
Honglin lowered her head, and hurriedly apologized to Shen Ninghua, “young miss, this servant has slipped her tongue.”
“It’s not impossible.” Shen Ninghua narrowed her eyes, trying to ignore all the scheming that had happened. Zhao Shi gave her such a house, she definitely wanted to move herself out of it after a while. “Bizhu, have you finished compiling my mother’s dowry?”
“Yes, young miss, it has been completed.”
“Mm, keep it carefully. I shall take back what belongs to me, piece by piece.” Shen Ninghua took out a bright white jade pendant from her purse. A smile tugged at her lips, she had caused a huge scene in front of the Shen house door. Chu Junyi was sure to figure out her location easily, she should be getting her five thousand gold pieces by tonight. “Qingque, if we have any guests tonight, go easy on them. Do not cause too much disturbance.”
Qingque nodded, “yes, young miss need not worry.”
Even though it was the first night back at Shen house, Shen Ninghua slept very well. When she woke up in the middle of the night, she was actually feeling rather groggy.
“Such a black-hearted girl, even her servants are so vicious. If not for my martial skills, I would not have even made it through the door.” the joking voice snapped Shen Ninghua back to reality, and she saw Chu Junyi, wearing dark green, with a smile on his face.
“How frivolous, climbing into my room so late at night. I hope Mister Chu has brought the gold tickets*?”
*See TL notes
“No gold tickets, but I am here.” Chu Junyi was surprised. If he had not investigated thoroughly beforehand, he would not have believed that this ethereal beauty before him was the same dark-skinned girl he met in the mountain valley.
“Oh, since it’s like this, then I shall accept it without hesitation.” Shen Ninghua got up from bed, and took the jade pendant under her pillow before following the jewel pattern on it.
“Oh? Miss Shen is willing to take me as payment?” Chu Junyi raised an eyebrow.
“I asked for five thousand gold pieces in exchange for saving your life. Since you did not bring any gold tickets, then I shall accept your life as payment.” Shen Ninghua smiled at him, her tone suddenly turned serious, “do you know who I met in the mountain valley?”
“An old lady who is especially skilled at using poison…”
Chu Junyi eyebrows shot up, he hurriedly got away from the bed. Just as he stood up, he fell down on the floor with a crash.
“What poison did you use?”
“It’s not potent, but it makes you easier to kill.” Shen Ninghua studied Chu Junyi, and turned to the door, “Qingque, come in.”
“Mister Chu sold his life to me and I have accepted it as well. Change his appearance, and send him away. I shall find a way to take back the gold I have lost.”
Chu Junyi looked at her, “how are you going to take it back?”
Shen Ninghua grinned, her eyes bright, “I heard the capital has plenty of brothels. Mister Chu is also considered one of those exceptional men, handsome and talented. You would sell for a good price. My five thousand gold pieces would come to me very quickly.”
Chu Junyi was stunned. He could not believe his ears. This girl actually wanted to sell him away as a prostitute*!
*If you really wanna know, yes they do exist in ancient China. And no they do not service women. 😉
“Do you know who I am…”
“Naturally. Mister Chu has mentioned it before, and I have considered it. But for you to come to my courtyard in the middle of the night, you must not have told anybody. If I sold you, nobody would know as well. Who would expect such a handsome and talented noble like you, to end up in debauchery?”
“Hehe…” looking at the bright smiling face, Chu Junyi’s anger turned into joy. All these years, he has never seen such an interesting girl, “you sure are brave, are you not scared that…”
“I would suggest Mister Chu to not threaten me. I am very timid. If I have to prevent news from leaking, I will not even dare to leave your corpse intact. And that will be very unfortunate.”
Chu Junyi observed Shen Ninghua’s eyes carefully, only to see that her eyes were as if two vast and deep lakes with killing intent slowly emitting from within. Not a hint of jest could be detected. Chu Junyi changed his attitude, and smiled, “hehe, I was just joking, why would you take it so seriously?”
Shen Ninghua mirrored his smiling expression, her eyes shining bright, “I was also merely jesting, but Mister Chu’s acting skills are really good. I have not done anything, and yet you were poisoned.”
Chu Junyi stood up gracefully, almost as if the paralysed state he was in from earlier did not happen. “Since we both like to joke around, we can consider each other friends. What you used was a paralytic poison, did I not act accordingly?”
“Mister Chu’s act was quite accurate.”
“Then how did you see through it?” Chu Junyi was very curious.
Shin Ninghua lifted her gaze and looked at him, “Shouldn’t Mister Chu hand over the five thousand gold pieces first?”
“Five thousand pieces are with me. But whether or not I hand it over, it would depend on my mood.” Chu Junyi sat down, took out a gold ticket and started playing with it.
“Do you really want to know?”
Shen Ninghua’s smile widened, “why don’t you look at your hand.”
Chu Junyi turned his gaze, the fingers on his right hand had turned black, and it was spreading rapidly up his arm. Surprised, he quickly used his left hand, and blocked the acupuncture points on his right arm. Confirming that the spreading has slowed down, he raised his eyebrows and ask Shen Ninghua, “would this be Miss Shen’s newly acquired skills?”
“Merely a few parlor tricks.”
“And what poison would this be?”
“I am unable to tell you what poison I have used, but weren’t you curious about how I managed to see through your act? I can tell you that instead.”
Curious, Chu Junyi asked, “how?”
“Because I do not have any narcotics or paralytic poison with me. I have no use for those low-level poisons. Once my poison takes effect, it would leave a mark on you. Take Mister Chu’s arm for example. If you do not cure it quickly, you might have to get used to using your left hand from now on.” Looking at the black patch slowly spreading, Shen Ninghua’s tone was notably light.
“Oh? Wouldn’t it let people know that they have been poisoned?” asked Chu Junyi, not caring about his right arm.
“Wouldn’t that be better?” Shen Ninghua countered.
“Where is the benefit? People would know that it was you who poisoned them.” Chu Junyi paused. He gave Shen Ninghua a look of surprise. He could not tell when she poisoned him, nor the method that he was poisoned with.
Shen Ninghua merely smiled. In the mountain valley, she not only spent her time developing more potent poisons, she also trained to use poison without anybody noticing. Clearly knowing that you have been poisoned, yet unable to find the person that poisoned you as sit and await death. That is the most ruthless method to kill someone.
Chu Junyi grinned, “telling me all this, are you not afraid of me spreading the information?”
“Mister Chu can try.” Shen Ninghua did not seem to mind, her attention focused on the jade pendant on her hands. Yet there was an obvious threatening tone in her voice.
Chu Junyi smiled, “relax, in any case, we have suffered misfortune together. I will not betray you. Here is your five thousand pieces. Would Miss Shen cure me of my poison now?”
Shen Ninghua lifted her gaze, “Qingque.”
Qingque took the gold ticket from Chu Junyi and checked it, “young miss, five thousand gold pieces.”
Shen Ninghua nodded, she tossed the jade pendant at Chu Junyi, and said, “Mister Chu, go slowly. I will not send you out.”
Chu Junyi looked at her, “is Miss Shen forgetting something?” The poison in his arms was not cured.
“Did Mister Chu not seal his acupuncture points? When you go back, soak it in boiled vinegar for two hours. If you do not mind the colour, leave it as it is, the colour will disappear after a month.”
A hint of anger flashed across his eyes, “didn’t you say that you have no use for low-level poisons? What is this, a special poison for dyeing?”
Shen Ninghua laughed, “Mister Chu really believes whatever I say. You are an intelligent man yet you do not know that women are really good at lying?”
Chu Junyi clenched his teeth, and looked at Shen Ninghua. A smile suddenly appeared at his lips, “Miss Shen looks very well-informed, especially regarding that black jade pendant that you have.”
Shen Ninghua raised her head, “What do you mean, black jade pendant?” She had always carried a piece of black jade with her. All she knew was that her mother left it for her. From Chu Junyi’s words, it seemed there was some story behind it.
Chu Junyi laughed heartily, “I trust that Miss Shen will investigate this thoroughly herself.” Looking at the stunned expression on Shen Ninghua’s face, Chu Junyi was filled with glee. Without waiting for her to react, he leapt over the walls and left Jingxin garden.
The typos on this original text is killing me
In the very last paragraph, Chu Junyi refered to himself in third person “楚某”. This is normally used in either a very professional setting or in a mocking tone. In this case there is some hint of mockery of course. And it is important to note that people do not normally speak in first person unless they are talking to others of equal status. Shen Ninghua and Chu Junyi speak in first person for most of the conversation in this chapter, but they still refer to each other respectfully (Miss Shen and Mister Chu).
I cannot translate 楚某 without sounding awkward so I think it would be best I include it here.
First Lady (大夫人):
The First Lady here is the wife of the eldest son in the family. The Second Lady(二夫人) would be the wife of the second eldest son in the family. But the First Lady holds the most power among women in the family. And her sons and daughters would be of higher status: The Eldest Son(嫡子) and Eldest Daughter(嫡女) title would belong to her children as well.
Do not confuse this with concubines. I think everyone knows that ancient China allowed men to have multiple wives. But to be very specific, the term “娶” meaning marry, can only be used on one woman. Men(especially those of royal blood/noble families) can only have one wife(妻子), but can have multiple concubines (妾).
Gold tickets (金票):
Think of it as paper cash. Since five thousand gold pieces would be insanely heavy. It’s a paper ticket that can be exchanged for cash.
Gold tickets exchanged for gold and silver tickets(银票), of course exchanged for silver.