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Hello, friends! Please note, we have decided that each chapter will be divided in two parts and released on Monday and Thursday respectively.

The Good News : Today, as part of the opening week bonanza, we present a whole new chapter to all our lovely readers. (Let’s just shove the divided chapters to next Monday.) Thank you for your patience.

P.S. – Jiang Ruan’s claws are starting to show. haha. Enjoy this chapter!

Chapter 3: Qiu Yan

The maid, who had come, was named Qiu Yan. She was a high-ranked maid in the residence. Although her position was uncomparable to Zhang Lan, she still had a certain amount of respect from others. As letting Qiu Yan deliver food on the night of New Year’s Eve was something that had not happened in the past years, Zhang Lan must have wanted to stop everyone from gossiping and portray herself to be meticulously caring to the ill, bedridden daughter of the Jiang family.

When Qiu Yan placed the food basket down, she quickly scrutinized the residence at the same time. This was her first visit to Jiang Ruan’s residence. She observed a shabby and decaying air permeating the tight spaces of the residence and traces of rainwater seeping through the walls from the leaking roof. The blanket on the bed was also extremely thin. Even the most basic utensils were particularly defective. Living in such a damp and dark house, it would be odd if the body was not frail. At a glance, this did not look like a wealthy lady’s chamber at all. Even the lowest-ranked slave in this residence, perhaps, did not live as deplorably as this.

As Qiu Yan had been settled in the main residence for a long time, she understood in her heart that although the Zhang Lan family was greedy and harsh, they would not be so brazen in treating a lady like this, if the higher-ups did not intend to treat her that way. Since this was the case, naturally, she would not meddle.

"Your name is Qiu Yan, I presume." The person on the bed opened her mouth. Her voice was still a little hoarse. Yet, it oddly carried a subtle emotion.

Qiu Yan raised her head, smiling, "Yes, I am."

Bai Zhi and Lian Qiao guarded Jiang Ruan’s sides, watching Qiu Yan closely. In this residence, they could only trust themselves since everyone else harbored unfathomable motives towards the trio.

Jiang Ruan smiled, "Today is New Year’s Eve. These clothes worn by Sister Qiu Yan are fittingly festive. You wear them beautifully."

These words were a little strange. Qiu Yan could not wrap her head around them. She smiled, "It is Aunt who ordered them to be tailor-made. I am just a servant. To say that they are beautiful, Miss, you must be ridiculing me."

Jiang Ruan sighed lightly, "Auntie Lan is considerate. Did the entire residence have new clothes made for them?"

Her soft voice contained a smile. Qiu Yan subconsciously wanted to nod her head in agreement, before reacting quickly. The entire residence had gotten new clothes made for them, and yet, this lady and her maids in front of her were the only ones who were left out. However, regardless of the situation, these words could not be uttered. She just wanted to dodge this topic when Jiang Ruan spoke softly, "The two maids by my side are clumsy, and even the clothes worn by them are not as festive-looking as Sister Qiu Yan’s. There is something that Sister Qiu Yan is wrong about. I am not cracking jokes. Although Sister Qiu Yan is a servant, you seem to live more comfortably and respectably than me."

The words were too sharp, in stark contrast with their owner’s gentle tone. Without reason, Qiu Yan unexpectedly felt a bout of nervousness. She raised her head unconsciously to look at the person on the bed. Under the dim candlelight, the lady on the bed accepted hot tea from Bai Zhi. The rising spirals from the steaming tea concealed her face partially. She could not see her expression clearly, just long, drooping eyelashes drawing elegant curves that appeared unusually enticing.

Jiang Ruan’s voice was laced with a smile when it reached her, "With Sister Qiu Yan’s kind of face, when you have reached a marriageable age, it is certain that you will be married into a good family. The second son of Landlord Ma, from the outskirts, is quite decent. He already has twelve concubines. Of course, Sister Qiu Yan could be arranged to become the thirteenth concubine."

Qiu Yan was surprised. Chills slowly rose from her soles, her expression paling immediately. Biting her lips, she could not utter a single word, and just stared at Jiang Ruan with widened eyes.

Jiang Ruan was not worried. She merely brought the warm tea closer to her lips, sipping it lightly.

After a while, Qiu Yan finally gathered her courage. Puffing her chest, she spoke, "I do not know what Miss is talking about." The first half of the sentence was spoken in a righteous and confident manner. However, when she reached the latter half, she did not know why she began to feel guilty.

"A talented person should choose both a good position that one can excel in and a leader that uses one wisely. Humans walk towards the peak, while water flows towards lower grounds. It is normal for Sister Qiu Yan to act this way. You don’t need to feel shy." She tilted her head with a laugh, "This is a good matter. If there is a day when Sister Qiu Yan becomes the thirteenth concubine, of course, I will gift you a set of rouge. Sister Qiu Yan’s reputation, I think, is also something that you acquired through your intelligence."

Qiu Yan stood on her spot, holding her fists tightly. Jiang Ruan kneaded the space between her eyebrows, "Even if it has been just a while, I feel sleepy. My body has not recovered yet, so I cannot personally deliver my New Year greetings to Auntie Lan. I am troubling Sister Qiu Yan to do it for me." After finishing her words, she ordered Bai Zhi, "Go and send Sister Qiu Yan away."

This was considered as an invitation for her to leave. At that moment, Qiu Yan could not make up her mind. Naturally, she wished to leave this stifling house immediately. She nodded her head agreeably in panic. Her faint superiority when she arrived was no longer visible.

When Bai Zhi and Qiu Yan walked to the door, Jiang Ruan opened her mouth again, "By the way, Sister Qiu Yan, the clothes for both my maids that I mentioned earlier, since it is already the New Year, I want to see a little cheer. Sister Qiu Yan, please think of a way for them to look more festive."

Qiu Yan bit her lips, "Miss is being forcefully difficult." 𝚒𝓃𝘯𝙧𝚎𝗮𝚍. 𝒄𝐨𝓂

"Sister Qiu Yan is a smart person," Jiang Ruan interrupted her. "Otherwise, how will you become the thirteenth concubine?"

Qiu Yan’s face whitened even more, and she replied hatefully, "Yes."

After Bai Zhi sent Qiu Yan away, Lian Qiao asked, "What happened earlier, Miss? How did Qiu Yan claim a connection of a higher status with the second son of Landlord Ma?"

"She has been presenting a false facade in front of the second son of the Ma family to achieve her purpose. Now, they are at a stage where they are intimately close." Jiang Ruan spoke.

In her past life, someone chanced upon the private affair between Qiu Yan and the second son of the Ma family after it went on for a few years. When this scandalous matter had been exposed, he was left unharmed. Qiu Yan, however, was drowned alive in a cylindrical bamboo cage that was used to constrain pigs during transport. Before that, Qiu Yan had already been tormented to the extent of having an unsound mind. She kept repeating over and over again that she was the second son of the Ma family’s thirteenth concubine. Probably, when there had been an intense mutual attraction, he might have promised her that. It was just that, in the end, Qiu Yan was not fated to be the thirteenth concubine. Naturally, Jiang Ruan would not reveal this matter.

It finally dawned on Lian Qiao, "No wonder she was shocked to this extent. Bah, she is really a vulgar person. She does not have any sense of honor or shame!" As she was just a few years older than ten, she reddened immediately, "Just that, Miss, how do you know of these things?"

Lian Qiao doubted deeply in her heart. Not only that, she also discovered that today, Jiang Ruan seemed as though she had practically switched personalities. She, who had always been submissive, really threatened Qiu Yan this boldly without fear. Even as they were talking about this filthy matter, there was nothing peculiar about her expression, as if she was just mentioning an extremely ordinary household matter.

Compared to Bai Zhi and her, Jiang Ruan had less opportunities to step out of the house. Throughout the year, there were always unfinished chores in the residence. She had no chance to encounter these things. Lian Qiao had her suspicions, yet Jiang Ruan did not answer her question. She merely said, "Lian Qiao, do you want to stay here for your whole life?"

"Of course, I do not want to." Lian Qiao had an outspoken and bold personality, so she spoke without much thought, "Do not worry, Miss. Naturally, we will not stay in this residence for an entire lifetime. After some time has passed, Master will come for you."

Jiang Ruan smiled. She was more aware than anyone else as to when they would send for her. She had no patience to wait until then, and she did not want to either.

"Why should we wait? Qiu Yan will send us to the capital soon."

Lian Qiao was distracted for a while, before looking at Jiang Ruan subconsciously. However, she only saw the girl yawning slowly in an elegant manner. Under her straight nose, the red, pursed lips that tasted tea earlier curved slightly.

Translated by: togekiss

Edited by: Anks & Ely

(Special thanks to Trivial King for his helpful tips!)

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