Translated by Gumihou
Finally, even Duan Tingye could not stand the pressure of this awkward atmosphere anymore. He stiffened himself to make his excuses and leave, but before he could do so, the door behind Duan Tingxuan opened with an ominous [zhi ya]. Su Nuan Nuan looked out from the doorway, her figure backlit by lantern light. She studied them for a moment before saying mildly, “What happened had happened. For today's matter, Madam Min and sister-in-law are not in the wrong. It's natural to fear death, there's no shame in it. It's not like they were soldiers who deserted their armies. I will speak to old madam as well as the other n.o.ble women about this matter. Second brother, you may be at ease.”
Duan Tingye cheered up, he quickly gave Su Nuan a grateful bow and ran off before his older brother could say anything. At this, Duan Tingxuan just pulled Su Nuan Nuan back into the room, muttering, “What are you doing out here bother yourself over such a small thing? The weather's getting colder. What if you catch a cold? You're still injured, bruises are injuries too. Do you think you're like me, able to just walk off a flesh wound?”
Su Nuan Nuan merely muttered back, “I just don't want to make unnecessary trouble for people. No matter what, I was the one one who made the decision to stay back. Moreover, if I don't say anything for Madam Min and the branch couple, Concubine Lin and second sister would also suffer a backlash. If we're going by status alone, those two would be the ones left behind, right? For second brother to have arrived so quickly, that's already a great consideration. I'm not going to bother myself with the details.”
“You even care about the lives of those few slaves. Fine, I won't make trouble for them, alright?” Duan Tingxuan sighed. He reached out a hand to lightly stroke Su Nuan Nuan's face, “You're too kind-hearted, I really worry how you're going to survive the schemes of the inner court.”
“Don't I have you as a backup?” Su Nuan Nuan flashed a smile, but then a frown appeared on her face as she said. “Also, I don't think I'm all that kind-hearted. I was just doing my duty. If anyone dares to provoke me, I shall not let them off easy. It doesn't matter whether it's Madam Yun or the branch lady, both definitely won't leave me alone.”
When she said this, Duan Tingxuan finally recalled his wife's cunning, and had to smile. “You're right, it's this unrestrained att.i.tude of yours that really made you irresistible.”
“En, therefore, it's better for me to drive you out, just for my own safety. Otherwise, if you find me too irresistible, how could I, as a weak and helpless woman, fight you off?” Su Nuan Nuan wrapped her arms around herself, feigning a fearful expression, causing the little marquis to freeze into a sculpture with a 囧囧 expression.
Nevertheless, Duan Tingxuan still had the presence of mind to realise that his situation was not wholly unfavourable. With this thought in mind, he left the room. After all, he really had quite a few other matters to take care of anyway. After some thought, he decided to check out the area where they had detained the bandits. They had not managed to obtain much clues from the robbery at the Capital or the a.s.sa.s.sination attempt of the crown prince at the East Palace. Perhaps he could shake some information out of these bandits.
As for Su Nuan Nuan, after such an exciting day and receiving those sudden confessions from Duan Tingxuan how could she sleep? She spent a few minutes lying down on the bed before finally getting up. Su Nuan Nuan threw on a cloak and, noticing that both Hong Lian and Xiang Yun still awake, she said, “Xiang Yun, take me to the place where they've locked up those female slaves. Hong Lian, look after the room. If something happens, just send someone to find me.”
Hong Lian answered quickly. Though she had not heard what Su Nuan Nuan and Duan Tingxuan were discussing, this maid understood her mistress enough to know that she intended to save the lives of those female slaves. Buddhism encourages people to deliver all living creatures from suffering, and her mistress level of mercy was probably enough to earn her a sainthood. Only, she had no idea how her mistress intended to rescue those women. Does she intend to secretly release them? That's entirely possible. Although those people still has family within the mansion, they were on the verge of making deals with the enemy to preserve their lives, so what are family ties to them?
As Hong Lian continued to ponder over this, the closing of the door caused her to slip out of her reverie. It was then that she noticed that Su Nuan Nuan had already left with Xiang Yun.
It was really the middle of autumn now, the wind was chilly as they made their way down winding pathways bordered by blooming chrysanthemums. They haven't arrived at the room where the women were being kept when wails and sounds of crying reached them. Su Nuan Nuan paused outside to listen. She sighed and thought: She really could not understand it. Why are slaves so badly treated in this era? She heard that in harsher n.o.ble houses, over a dozen slaves would be killed in a year just like that, and no one ever question this kind of practices. Even Duan Tingxuan, a man who was supposed to think for the common people, treated these slaves like livestock. He really did not think of them as living people.
“Missy, it's best if you go in quickly. It will get really cold soon. If the master becomes angry, these slaves would be the ones to suffer.” Xiang Yun prompted gently. Su Nuan Nuan nodded, and Xiang Yun walked up the steps and pushed open the doors. She waited for Su Nuan Nuan to enter first, before coming in behind her and gently closing the door.
Three grannies were there as guards for the slave women. They were chattering in excited voices with each other when Su Nuan Nuan came in. The chatter quickly stopped, and all three stood up to give their greetings with warm smiles. “Why is madam here? Please be at ease, with us grannies here to watch, they won't be able to run off even with eight legs.
One of the granny snapped at the crying women, “Enough with that! Your crying is starting to annoy people. Only know how to cry, you should have known where your traitorous thoughts will lead you that time.”
Su Nuan Nuan said, “It's been hard on momo. I have something to say to them. I shall leave after that.”
The more quick witted granny smiled and said, “If that's the case. We shall wait outside…”
Before she could finish, Su Nuan Nuan said, “No need. It's very cold outside, what I'm about to tell them is nothing secret. You may stay and listen.”
“Yes, this old maid thanks madam for her kindness.” the grannies echoed, feeling the warmth of grat.i.tude in their hearts. Not for just letting them stay, but for letting them stay because it was cold outside. If it were some other master, who cares whether you're cold or not? If I can't dismiss you from my sight whenever I want, how else do I show my status as a master?
Su Nuan Nuan made her way towards the miserable maids. She cast her eyes over their sad faces and had to admit that these women were all beauty of some sort. The oldest was only in her early thirties, they were truly in the best years of their lives.
“I've pleaded with the lord to spare your lives, and he has agreed to do so.”
The maids who had been sobbing into their sleeves and handkerchiefs froze, they all looked up at her in shock. Their movements were so sudden that it made Su Nuan Nuan suffer phantom whiplash. Looking into those trembling eyes and shaking lips, she knew what they wished to ask, yet did not dare to do so. She nodded solemnly and answered their unasked question, “I have not brave the cold just to tease you. The lord had promised me to spare you.”
There was still a look of disbelief on the slaves' faces. Suddenly, they all began to cry again. All raced to be the first to kowtow to Su Nuan Nuan, fresh tears washing their faces as they sobbed, “This slave thanks madam… thank you madam for granting such great kindness. Wuwuwu…”[Gumihou: Su Nuan Nuan is spreading the love (to everyone but you-know-who)]  momo – actually mama, but momo is probably less confusing since it's used to addressed old female servants.
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