Translated by Gumihou
The three grannies were stunned. They exchanged glances with each other, then stared hard at Su Nuan Nuan. All three strained their ears to hear what Su Nuan Nuan said next.
Su Nuan Nuan cleared her throat pointedly and said, "Don't thank me yet. You'll know what I mean when you go back to the mansion. Sometimes, it's better to be dead than to suffer life. There are many witnesses to what happened today, so there's no way for us to hide it. The lord can stay his hand and not take your life, but he cannot stop tongues from wagging. Have you considered what your life will be like once back at the mansion? Are you mentally prepared on what you will face? You will be ridiculed, mocked and criticized, rumours and slanders will follow you wherever you go. Even those who had nothing to do with this matter will take the chance to spit on you. Well, are you ready to face that?"
The slaves turned pale at this. Clearly they haven't thought so far ahead. Su Nuan Nuan sighed, then said gently, "I am not here to tell you that you've escaped the death penalty, but to tell you certain principles of life. None of you are soldiers, nor are you an army deserter. If you run away from a war, that's an act of crime that deserves death penalty. Last night's incident, even if you have committed a wrong, does not deserve the death penalty.
Life is very precious. Therefore it is perfectly natural for everyone to do their best to survive. The fact that you did not put your life on the line for your master must of course be punished, but the fact that you have done so to protect your own life is something that I can sympathize with. However, because you have committed a wrong, you must pay for it. The slanders and criticism you'll face in the future will be your punishment.
In the face of a great enemy, you have committed a crime in order to continue living. I hope that in the future, you may bravely bear the cost of this action and continue to live courageously under the shadow of your action. Don't be like today and try to take the easy way out. If you do so, you will just die under the knife of other people's tongue."
The slaves were shocked. Even the three grannies were shocked: What master would say this to their servant? Would any master or mistress waste their spit to encourage their slaves to live on like this? That's the heir's wife, a mistress of great status, ah. They might as well be the gra.s.s which she stepped on everyday, they were the humblest of the humble. So… why?
Su Nuan Nuan looked at the blanked out slaves, their tears still falling like translucent beads, but not a single one of them raised a sleeve to wipe their tears away. Her heart ached. In truth, she had no idea whether she did the right thing or not. The only thing she was sure of was that she could not just stand back and watch as the lives of these women were snuffed out over such a trivial matter.
After another sigh, she said, "Life is hard, I have no idea whether I did the right thing pleading for your life. However, no matter how harsh life is, it had to be better than death, right? You all have family, parents, husband and children. If you die, how many people would mourn your death? So, if you ever felt like things are too much, think of the people who will miss you.Keep your family in mind, time is the world's best healer. As long as you can endure the next few months, people will slowly forget about this. This too shall pa.s.s, and one day you will live with ease."
"We humble ones… thank first madam for… for her great mercy. We humble ones… will not fail first madam's expectations. No matter how poisonous the words or cruel the curses, we shall endure. We will live well even under the worst insults. As first madam has said, this is our punishment. We humble ones gladly accept first madam's grace."
One of the slaves bravely stammered out her word of thanks. Then, she sat upright, and formally, deferentially kowtowed to Nuan Nuan. The rest of the slaves also sat upright, and kowtowed, "We humble ones know that we have sinned and gladly bear our punishment. We humble ones know that we live because of madam's kindness, we shall do our best to live even at the threat of the sword."
"Very good, since you know have this kind of resolution, I've clearly not wasted my effort in preserving your life."
Su Nuan Nuan nodded approvingly, then turned to leave. The three grannies hurriedly escorted her out. One of the grannies t.i.ttered and said, "Madam certainly has a heart of the Buddha, surely there's no need to save them from their own heinous actions? They had committed an unpardonable crime after all…"
Su Nuan Nuan flashed her a look, and the granny swallowed the rest of her words down. Su Nuan Nuan's voice was soft as she said, "An unpardonable crime? Just because they wanted to live? Well then, can you say for sure, when you rushed at the enemy yesterday that you have absolutely no fear in your heart? If you happened to be at their age, can you guarantee that you would have no such selfish thought in your head?"
The granny's face went white. When she thought over Su Nuan Nuan's words, cold sweat popped out all over her body. Su Nuan Nuan continued speaking in that soft, almost gentle tone, "People are not sages, who had not committed a wrong in their life? Today, I rescued them from death. In the future, if the lord for some reason orders your death, I shall plead for you as well."
The grannies stood together at the stairs, watching until Su Nuan Nuan and Xiang Yun disappeared into the night. None of them really knew what to say for a long while. But, after some time, one of the grannies sighed, and said, "You're getting muddle headed with your age. Shouldn't we celebrate having such a kindhearted master? Must you really show yourself as a heartless old grandma? You've really made a bad impression upon the first madam."
"I was just saying it for madam's sake. How is she supposed to properly keep the house when she's so gentle and lenient?" this granny was actually quite shaken by Su Nuan Nuan's quiet words, but there was no way she was going to admit it in front of her colleague. The third granny sneered, "Gentle and lenient? Think carefully who you're describing again. Have you forgotten what she was like in the past? No matter what she has become now, she will never be the 'gentle and lenient' type. I don't know about others, but I do know that Auntie Lu would inevitably shrink down whenever first madam is mentioned. If first madam gives an order, she'd be the first to jump into action. Even though both Madam Yun and the second lady are still the official managers, I've never seen her treat those two with that much fear and respect."
"Enough, as far as I can see, we should follow the first madam from now on. You can't find such a benevolent and virtuous yet strong and intelligent master even if you try for years. You two listen to me, in the future the whole of mansion will be ruled by first madam. Everything else aside, who do you think those maids inside will be loyal to from now on? They are all intelligent people, perhaps too intelligent for their own good, but for first madam they would have died. Furthermore, after speaking to them like that, do you think they will be loyal to anyone aside from her? I tell you, this kind of loyalty is something that neither Madam Yun or the branch lady would ever achieve in their lifetimes."
This was said by the second granny. The other two, even the mouthy first granny, nodded in agreement.
By now, Su Nuan Nuan had left the side hall and was strolling under the moonlight with Xiang Yun.
The night looked almost bleached out. Everything was bone white or in deep shadows. Xiang Yun shivered a little, the maid really wanted to return to her room, but mindful of her mistress' mental burdens, she continued to walk on. She dared not say a word, afraid that she will interrupt whatever Missy was thinking.
"Xiang Yun, do you think I did the right thing?"
At Su Nuan Nuan's sudden question, Xiang Yun was caught off guard. The maid scratched her head, thinking: How would I know whether Missy did is right or not? I only know that we should return to our rooms soon or we'll catch a cold.
Xiang Yun opened her mouth, but then hemmed and hawed, not knowing what to say. Suddenly, a figure appeared from the dark to say in his clear voice, "You were absolutely certain when arguing with me earlier, what's with all the doubt now?"
Su Nuan Nuan and Xiang Yun both turned and saw Duan Tingxuan smiling at them from not too far away. Though he was not close enough for them to see his features properly, the moonlight was incredibly flattering upon his tall and n.o.ble figure. When he saw that he had their attention, he strode forward in a few quick steps and reached for the lantern in Xiang Yun's hand. In a warm voice, he said, "Xiang Yun, you go back first. I shall walk with your mistress and ease whatever problem she has."
Xiang Yun happily complied and ran off. Su Nuan Nuan stared at the maid's disappearing back with askance. Feeling a little awkward, she pouted and said, "She sure runs fast, what's that about? It's not like she's being chased by a dog."
"It's getting rather late and cold, but you still drag her around for a heart-to-heart chat instead of letting her cuddle up in her warm bed. Even I would run off, I'd run even faster than that Xiang Yun." Duan Tingxuan laughed as he explained Xiang Yun's action, only to see his wife roll her eyes. She snapped, "Since it's like this, why haven't you run off yet? Want to have a heart-to-heart?"
"It can't be help. It's part of my duties as a husband. I have to at least do better than a maid, right? I must show my love and consideration for my darling wife, ah." said the little marquis, as he removed his cloak and swirled it around Su Nuan Nuan's shoulders.
What an amazingly romantic move, ah.
Su Nuan Nuan muttered crossly in her heart. However, the woollen cloak was really warm and it blocked off the sharp wind that had been cutting into her bones earlier. She looked up at Duan Tingxuan and saw that he was only in his regular clothes and felt a little embarra.s.sed. She muttered, "I have my own cloak, so I'm not cold."
"The air is coldest here on the mountain, your cloak is mostly decorative anyway, There's no need for you to worry about me, after 20 years of breathing exercises and training my inner energy, a bit of wind like this is nothing to me."
"This cloak doesn't look like the one you had on earlier. Could it be? Surely you haven't s.n.a.t.c.hed this off second brother, right?" Su Nuan Nuan cast a suspicious eye at her husband. She knew her husband well enough that this was definitely an awful thing he would do.
Duan Tingxuan's expressions seemed to crunch up together as he snarled, "Even if you don't see me as a good older brother, surely you may see me as a good husband? Why would I put Tingye's clothes on you? This is something Si Ping brought up for me."[Gumihou: Lol, irony, we the readers don't think you're a good husband at all. Am I right gals and guys??]
"Si Ping is here?" Su Nuan Nuan sighed with relief. If Duan Tingxuan had really put his brother's cloak on her, she reeeeally did not know how to react to that.
"That's right, when I dispatched people over to the mansion to inform them of the situation here. Old madam and elder madam immediately sent Si Ping over with clothes and news from home. According to Si Ping, the senior madams were doing their best to keep their emotions under control; Concubine Lin and second young miss cried so much that their eyes were like swollen peaches. Third brother kept insisted on coming, but luckily father was able to restrain him. Otherwise who knows what would happen if he just rush headlong over. Though I disliked Tingye, I have to say that he's much more reliable when it comes to this kind of things compared to third brother."
Author White Pear Flower: Actually, I've pondered over a long time whether to let these female slaves live. As Su Nuan Nuan had said, the ability to survive is a human trait. The feudal society is so harsh with its rules and careless ways with human lives that it could possibly wipe out the human race.
A certain little marquis: Who said that? Who said that? What's this about wiping out the human race? Rules are the backbone of human society
Author White Pear Flower: Ahem, however, as you can see Su Nuan Nuan can't live with this kind of rules, and insisted on doing things her own way. However, though these people managed to escape the death penalty, they still have to pay for their crime. Calling on everyone to support me![Gumihou: I really like how White Pear Flower put so much thought and effort into her characters.]
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