Chapter 54: Conspiracy

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Translated by : shl

Edited by : Anks & Ely

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The Great Jin Dynasty's annual Lantern Festival was on the fourteenth day of the current month, and was eagerly anticipated, especially by the young people. A few days prior, all of the well-known clothes and jewellery shops in the capital became extremely busy, and the cosmetics stores even more so[1]. Early in the morning on the day itself, the capital's young talents[2]gathered at a wine shop to discuss who had drawn the long straw[3]to compete first in the Ling Long Boat festivities[4].

[1] Gong bu ying qui ( 供不应求) - supply does not meet demand.

[2] Xiu cai ( 秀才) - could refer to scholars, people with fine talents, or specifically to someone who has passed to county level imperial examination.

[3] Ba tou chou ( 拔头筹) - lit. to pull out the first chip/ counter. In this method of drawing lots, which is common in China, a person is presented with a container of sticks made of bamboo, wood, ivory or other materials. Sometimes, the sticks have words on them. Pulling the 'short stick' is considered unlucky, similar to 'the short straw' in Western idiomatic language. The idiom can be used to refer to how a person is chosen to go first in a competition, and also can describe how someone has placed first in a competition.

[4] Ling long fang ( 玲珑舫) - 玲珑= exquisite, 舫= boat. The translators are not entirely sure what this refers to, but, from what Jiang Su Su says later in this chapter, it seems the festivities on board include performances (by young ladies?), and there is possibly a competition to see who is regarded as the best performer.

Jiang Ruan was awoken early by Bai Zhi and Lian Qiao. The two of them busied themselves selecting the clothes and jewellery she would wear that day. Lu Zhu, despondent that she would not be able to go with them, said resentfully, "Tonight, Miss will stand out from the crowd because of your looks and charm; what a pity, this servant will not have the opportunity to appreciate such a wonderful sight. I wonder how many young men will be mesmerised by our Miss."

Lian Qiao heard the sour note in her voice, and laughingly scolded her, "What nonsense are you spouting? Why don't I let you take my place, and I'll just stay behind to look after the fu, all right?"

"How can I do that?" Lu Zhu pouted. "I'm not the one in charge of looking after Miss. Besides, the maids who have newly come to the courtyard are not easy to get along with. Since you all are not around today, let me take the opportunity to take them down a peg or two."

"Miss, Lu Zhu needs to calm down a little," Bai Zhi teased her in a rare display of humour. "Don't scare off those cute little ladies."

"They are all just servants, what do you mean by calling them 'cute'?" Lu Zhu said with contempt in her eyes. "Moreover, they are all black-hearted. Today, I noticed that girl, Shu Xiang, searching for something in the inner room several times. After she had left, I checked, and do you know what I discovered? That Shu Xiang had pilfered a handkerchief belonging to Miss!"

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