Ren Yaoqi nodded and said to the woman in front of her, “When did Concubine come?”
Although there she had her back to the light, she still saw the woman beside her clearly. She was wearing a light purple fox fur coat embroidered with satin orchid and a white pleated skirt. Her jet black hair was raised in a ‘falling off the horse bun’* and had only a pair of golden hairpins of a unique style.
*T/n: Here is one example:
Note that there may be many variations to this hair bun
The pearl earrings swayed gently beneath her ears and cast a small shadow on the lustrous white side profile of her face. When one looked, there was a different type of tactfulness, reservedness and exquisiteness.
This was Concubine Fang, a Jiang Nan woman. Her speech and deportment were always elegant and gentle as if she was a beauty who walked out from an ancient painting.
Regardless of position, everyone in the Ren Residence would say that not only was she beautiful, she also had a heart of gold like Bodhisattva.
Zi Wei Courtyard once had a few average-sized servant girls who secretly learned Concubine Fang’s manner of speaking and walking. When they bumped into Third Miss, Ren Yaohua by accident and got caught in the act, Third Miss ordered Wet Nurse Zhou to find people to use thin bamboo strips to whip them fiercely. After they were whipped until their small legs and soles were badly mutilated until they were a blur of blood and flesh, they were shut in the woodshed.
As it was during the height of summer, after being shut for three days, maggots grew all over below the few servant girls’ knees.
The year when her Mother and Ren Yaohua went to the village, the Old Madam handed both Zi Wei Courtyard and her to Concubine Fang to take care.
In her impression from her previous lifetime, this Concubine Fang seemed to obey her in everything, looked after her extremely well that even her own biological daughter, Ninth Younger Sister, Ren Yaoying(Rèn Yáoyīng) resented her out of jealousy because of this.
“Just came not long ago. I see that your whole body is breaking out in sweat. Is it very hot?” Her slightly cold palm was placed on her forehead.
Ren Yaoqi did not move. “Mhm.”
Concubine Fang sighed lightly. “Why didn’t you say that it’s hot? When you just fell sick you kept shouting cold. Even after covering you with three layers of quilt you were still cold until you kept shivering. That’s why I let people move you to the heatable brick bed. Now that you’re not scared of cold anymore, it should be that your illness is going to recover soon. Later I’ll let people tidy the bed. It should still be better for you to sleep on the bed tonight. It’s also more spacious.”
Ren Yaoqi nodded her head.
Concubine Fang looked at her for a while and deliberated as she said, “Yaoqi, your Mother and Third Elder Sister have come back. In the future, I’m afraid that this concubine can’t interfere in the matters of this courtyard so you have to go along with your Third Elder Sister more in the future. She has a proud disposition and makes the elders happy. If you still stubbornly oppose her in every aspect, the one who suffers losses will still be you. As for Madam……Actually you also can’t blame her, you know at that time when you were born……In short, it’s not that Consort she doesn’t value you. You’re also her daughter after all. It’s just that Third Miss is the eldest daughter so Madam will inevitably rely on her a little more.
Concubine Fang advised her gently and softly. Her voice was slow and although she was speaking the Northern language, upon careful listening, one could still hear that there was some southern accent which was soft and sweet and pleasing to the ears.
Ren Yaoqi tried hard to imagine how she would react when she heard these words if she had based it on her temperament when she was young but on her mien, she remained calm and expressionless.
Concubine Fang saw that she did not speak and reached out her hand to help her tidy her quilt and said again, “Wait a few days until your body is better, you can go see Madam and Third Miss. I just felt that your forehead is still scalding. Madam and Third Miss have just settled down after being worn out from the journey on the horse carriage so you can rest for today first. I’ll go instruct people to change your bed?”
‘Mother and Third Elder Sister have already returned to the courtyard?’ Ren Yaoqi nodded her head.
Concubine Fang then stood up and went out. Her low and gentle voice that was instructing people could hear from outside the curtain.
After a while, two servant girls entered while carrying bedding. They walked to the side of that canopy bed* at the north and started to make the bed.
*T/n: Looks something like this:
That canopy bed already had no one sleeping on it for a while. It was originally a little damp but luckily the room was burnt with earthworms and the newly changed bedding was also dry and clean. Although it was like this, compared to that heatable brick bed, it was still quite icy-cold.
Her body first produced sweat from being hot then suddenly stopped sweating from encountering the cold. It was actually very easy to catch a cold. She did not know if Concubine Fang knew about it.
Ren Yaoqi let that little servant girl called Qing Mei(Qīng Méi) to bring a few small hand warmers over and place them under the quilt to enclose it. Then, she let them take a set of clean clothes which was close-fitting and go heat it up by the incense burner*.
*T/n: Not only can it be used to burn incense, but it can also be used for warming people up
Qing Mei and another servant girl, Xue Li(Xué Lí) whispered in small voices, “First she disliked that it was warm, then now she’s scared of cold. Fifth Miss and Third Miss are indeed biological sisters, they both know how to torment people.”
“Shh——Don’t ever say these words in the future. The one from the east side room has come back……”
Ren Yaoqi did not hear the servant girls complaining. After waiting for the bed to be covered up until it was warm, she let the servant girls serve her in changing her into the close-fitting clothes and support her to go sleep on the bed.
After covering the small stove for very long, the heat of the bed was not much different from the temperature of the heatable brick bed.
She had only laid down for a short while when there was someone who carried a bowl of medicine and entered.
“Fifth Miss, you should drink your medicine already.” It was a young woman’s voice which called out softly.
When Ren Yaoqi opened her eyes, she saw that pretty and delicate girl who wore a dark green satin coat and an azurite colored cotton skirt who came to find Wet Nurse Zhu previously. She was a head servant girl called Jin Ju who served by Concubine Fang’s side.
“Wasn’t it said that the prescription is going to be changed?” Ren Yaoqi was supported by Jin Ju to sit at the head of the bed. She took a glance at that bowl of medicine.
Jin Ju’s face was carrying a smile. “It’ll be changed after this dose is taken. Concubine originally invited a physician to come but he was hindered on the way by Wet Nurse Zhou to go see Third Madam and Third Miss. After the physician went to the Old Madam there to report, he was sent away by the steward instead.”
“Mother, she’s sick?”
When Jin Ju heard what she said, she took a glance at Ren Yaoqi and smiled as she said, “Third Madam and Third Miss have rushed their journey for a whole day and it is also a world of ice and snow outside. I think it’s because they’re worried about catching a cold. Fifth Miss, the medicine is going to be cold soon. You should drink it quickly?”
The bowl of medicine moved to the corner of her mouth. Ren Yaoqi’s brows involuntarily knitted slightly. This was not the prescription she took previously.
Although the prescription she took previously was not cold and not hot, it also targeted the symptoms. However, this bowl of medicine had quite a few medicinal ingredients changed.
After she left the Ren Family, she followed Mister Pei(Péi) and read many books. Leaving aside history books and art of war, she even cursorily read laws and decrees, astrology and physiognomy, geomancy and Buddhists scriptures, let alone medical classics which she had learned by heart.
All living things in the world mutually reinforce and counteract each other. Herbs were are balanced by diving them into yin and yang. Illnesses were divided by cold, hot, wet and dry.
Prescribing the right medicine to target the symptoms of the illness not only required one to be clear about the medicine’s channel tropism*, trend, rising and lowering, mutual compatibility of medicines, but one also needed to know the five elements* which reinforce and counteract each other and the seven interactions between more than two medicines in one dose.
*T/n: It’s a term in TCM I’m not sure if I’m correct but to oversimplify it, it’s on the principles of how certain medicines suited certain organs in the body
**T/n: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water
And mutual inhibition and incompatibility were great taboos of administering medicine.
For example, the original prescription she took had wolf’s bane and was inferior among medicine and had poison. However, after manufacturing it into medicine and blending them in a compatible manner, it could also become a good medicine. Other than wolf’s bane, this bowl of medicine today also had a Pinellia ternata(crow-dipper). When used separately there was no problem but when used together, it violated a great taboo of mutual inhibition in medicinal properties.
Other than this, there were also a few medicinal ingredients’ compatibilities which were extremely inappropriate. Therefore, if she drank this medicine, although it would not be to the extent that it would immediately harm the fundamentals of her body, it was just that her illness which had originally more or less recovered was going to be dragged on for a few more days.
Woah, quite a bit of TCM terms towards the end. Hope they weren’t too confusing. Do tell me if they were!