Qin Sang seeks help&h.e.l.lip;'&h.e.l.lip;his demeanour tranquil, giving one the impression of a scholar.' — Ch. 14.3 © 12
Qin Sang's vision dimmed and she almost fainted. Zhu Ma saw her whispering with the captain but not a word could be heard. She didn’t want to eavesdrop but had noticed that her mistress was looking terrible and was afraid that it meant Master's injuries were quite bad. Becoming anxious, Zhu Ma said, 'Missy, don’t panic. Wait until you see how Master is.'
Qin Sang forced herself to be calm as she replied, 'Zhu Ma, I feel awful. Go see if there’s any hot tea and get me some.'
Zhu Ma immediately obeyed. Qin Sang waited until she was some distance away before asking the captain: 'Who else knows about this now?'
'Commander Yao doesn’t know yet.' The captain hesitated for a moment then said, 'Mistress, we need to act fast.'
Commander Yao was still unaware which meant that Li Zhongnian was also still in the dark. Qin Sang saw the captain gazing at her hopefully and felt her own heart sink. She said: 'I'm merely a woman and can’t decide anything. Which of your men does your Master think the most highly of normally? It would help me to discuss this with him a little.'
The captain hesitated a moment before saying, 'Master gets along best with Eldest Master normally. It’s just that Eldest Master doesn’t find it easy to move around. Moreover, it’s already past midnight and if we were to go back to the family home now, I’m just afraid we'll alarm a great many people.'
Qin Sang had never expected that the captain would say this of all things. She echoed: 'Gets along best with Eldest Master? But Eldest Master isn’t in charge and he can’t move around&h.e.l.lip;'
The captain nodded, but said: 'When it comes to Master's affairs, Eldest Master can make decisions on his behalf because he has always been on Master's side. When Second Master was running the show, Master used to suffer a lot. Fortunately, Eldest Master used to help him secretly such that he knew every move Second Master was making and was thus not disadvantaged.'
Not once had Qin Sang imagined that the bedridden eldest son of the family, Yi Lianyi, could be so capable. She gaped a little before asking, 'Since Lan Po is seriously injured right now, then I ought to consult Da Ge*?
*Da Ge: Eldest Brother. If you’re not reading this chapter at Meraki Translations, it has been stolen and reproduced by bootleg websites.
The captain nodded and urged her: 'Mistress must not delay any longer otherwise Commander Yao might get wind of this matter and stir up trouble.'
Qin Sang did her best to calm herself and instructed him: 'Stay here and guard the place. I’m going back to the family home. If anyone dares to try and force their way in, shoot them, no questions asked.'
The captain replied: 'Rest a.s.sured, Mistress, as long as we're here, no one will be able to force their way in.'
Qin Sang nodded. As she turned away, she saw Zhu Ma tottering back with a cup of hot tea. She told her: 'I don’t want the tea. You're coming home with me.'
Zhu Ma was baffled¹. Only after they had gotten into the car was she told that they were going back to the family home. When she asked why, Qin Sang refused to answer. Zhu Ma a.s.sumed that she was going back to call on Eldest Mistress so she did not enquire further.
¹ 莫名其妙 mòmíng-qímiào: unable to make head or tail of sth; baffled. Translation originally published at tranzgeek(DOT)wordpress(DOT)com.
Qin Sang had not been back to the family home for some time. Now that Yi Jipei was ill and Yi Lianshen was in exile, the place was cold and quiet. From a distance, the two giant lanterns hanging below the arched gateway could be seen, covered by fine white gauze. The Yi family was a modern family but because they were provincial military governors, they still observed some of the traditional customs. After Second Mistress's pa.s.sing, the light bulbs had been changed to white ones so that from far, it looked like moonlight shining coldly on the asphalt road outside the gate.
The side of the road was piled high with snowdrifts from the heavy snowfall of a few days ago. The snow in the city and around the residences had been cleared but the snowdrifts by the roadside had not melted completely. Icicles hung from the eaves of roofs. They melted in the daytime but formed again at night. On such a night, the winter wind was enough to raise gooseflesh.
The car pa.s.sed through the arched gateway. Qin Sang got out in front of the main wing. Although she was wearing an overcoat, hat and gloves, she still shivered upon getting out of the car when she felt the wind. She knew that Eldest Master and Mistress lived in the eastern wing so when she saw the servant girls coming out from the second door, she asked directly, 'Has Eldest Mistress gone to bed?'
A car coming in the dead of night² had left the Yi servants uneasy but when they saw that it was Third Mistress, all of them heaved a sigh of relief. One of the servant girls replied: 'Not yet. Eldest Mistress always does two hours of homework after dinner and is now studying in the worship hall.'
² 夤夜 yínyè: LITERARY in the depths of the night; in the dead of night. Please consider reading from Meraki Translations rather than at bootleg websites.
'Then I'll wait for her in the main room.' Qin Sang thought for a moment then added, 'Since Da Sao is busy with her homework, let’s not disturb her. Has Da Ge retired for the night?'
The servant girl blinked a little but a.s.sumed that since Third Mistress was also a Buddhist, she knew that one should not be interrupted during the chanting of sutras. Hence she replied: 'Eldest Master isn’t asleep either but he usually spends the night reading on the bed-stove³. Do you wish to see Eldest Master, Third Mistress?'
'Yes,' Qin Sang nodded. 'It's been some time since I saw Da Ge. I should go and greet him first then wait for Da Sao to finish with her homework.'
The servant girl then led her into a hall next to the rooms. The Yi family home was an old one and had been built with northern-style bed-stoves. Steam pipes had been installed later and the house was warm and snug. Qin Sang saw her eldest brother-in-law reclining on a big pillow. In front of him was an iron shelf on which a foreign language book lay open. The shelf looked to be a special construction for he did not have to do much to turn the pages easily.
Qin Sang followed the Western custom of bowing from a distance then calling out, 'Da Ge.'
Yi Lianyi looked up and only at that moment did Qin Sang discover that this eldest brother did not bear much of a resemblance physically to the two younger ones. Although he was considerably older than Yi Lianshen and Yi Liankai, his features were finely chiselled⁴ and his demeanour tranquil, giving one the impression of a scholar, with none of the vigour a.s.sociated with the sons of a general. Qin Sang knew that he was paralysed from the chest down and only his two arms were mobile. It was also for this reason that this eldest son of a provincial military governor spent his days reading to relieve his boredom and did not concern himself with worldly affairs.
⁴ 眉清目秀 méiqīng-mùxiù: delicate features; finely chiselled features. Translation originally published at tranzgeek(DOT)wordpress(DOT)com.
Yi Lianyi did not look surprised to see her, merely remarking, 'You're here, Sanmei*?' He then ordered the servant girl to pull up a chair for Qin Sang and to serve tea. His manner was tepid as though he were receiving an ordinary guest.
* Third Younger Sister. If you’re not reading this chapter at Meraki Translations, it has been stolen and reproduced by bootleg websites.
Qin Sang waited until the servant was pouring tea before she explained, 'I came to see how you are, Da Ge. It just so happens that Da Sao isn’t around so I thought of waiting for her here.'
Yi Lianyi gave a faint smile and replied: 'You'll have to wait quite a while as she always spends a lot of time on her homework.'
While they were conversing in this polite fashion, the servant girl bowed herself out. Qin Sang could not tolerate it any more and stood up, declaring, 'Da Ge, something bad has happened to Lan Po.'
'I know.' Yi Lianyi's expression was unruffled and he said very calmly, 'You would not have come to see me at this hour otherwise.'
'He was badly injured and is in hospital now.' Struggling with conflicting emotions, Qin Sang added, 'I hope you can help to manage the overall situation for the present, Da Ge. Commander Yao is Li Zhongnian’s man while Commander Yu only follows General Li's orders. I’m just afraid that General Li will take the chance to sabotage the Yi family’s interests.'
Yi Lianyi rejoined: 'I'm a cripple who can’t even stand up, much less command the armed forces. Uncle Yu may be Fuzhou’s garrison commander but he isn’t someone we need to worry about. Yao Jingren, on the other hand, is a crafty fellow who might very well take the chance to make trouble5. With the situation so critical now, drastic times call for drastic measures.'6
5 興風作浪 xīngfēng-zuòlàng: stir up trouble; make trouble; fan the flames of disorder
6 釜底抽薪 fǔdǐ-chōuxīn: (Idiom) take away firewood from under the cauldron — take drastic measures to deal with an emergency
Qin Sang gazed at him in bewilderment. He continued: 'Let's send for the physician and say the Marshal has woken up and has recovered the power of speech. We will also send someone to tell Commander Yu that the Marshal would like to see him.'
Qin Sang was remarkably intelligent7 and only needed a hint to begin apprehending his plan. She questioned: 'What if Commander Yao doesn’t fall for it?'
7 冰雪聰明 bīngxuě-cōngmíng: exceptionally intelligent (idiom). Please consider reading the original (and free) translations from MerakiTranslations rather than at bootleg websites.
'He has no choice,' Yi Lianyi’s expression was impa.s.sive. 'Yao Jingren is only a division commander. The other two regiments are loyal to Father so he has no control over them. Even if he doesn’t fall for it, he wouldn't dare to act recklessly once we announce that Father can already speak. If he really does come here, it goes without saying that I have ways to keep him here as a hostage. After all, Li Zhongnian is no fool. He can’t enter Fuyuan so he'll just have to do his worrying8 outside the city. If he dares order an attack on the city, he'll risk universal condemnation.9 In the past, he could always use San Di* to lend credence to his claim of being an ally but if he makes such a move now, it will discredit10 the alliance.'
8 乾著急 gānzháojí: Collq. to worry helplessly
* Third Younger Brother
Qin Sang let out a tiny sigh and merely said, 'In that case, I’ll follow your lead in all such matters, Da Ge.'
Mini announcement: Due to some changes, translations of Siege in Fog will be "moving house" very very soon. I have a separate post coming up in a few days where I’ll go into a bit more detail about it so stay tuned for that!
³ 炕 kàng: a long heated platform made of bricks or other types of fired clay. Used in northern China to keep the house warm.
9 冒天下之大不韙 mào tiānxià zhī dà bù wěi: defy world opinion; risk universal condemnation; fly in the face of popular will (idiom). Translated as 'risk universal condemnation'.
10 名不正言不順 míngbuzhèngyánbushùn: (of a t.i.tle, degree etc) illegitimately conferred. Translated as 'discredit' according to context.
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