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Chapter 18: Hidden Conflict
The Sima Family’s atmosphere had not been very good recently. The ancient books and antiques that the old master collected had been destroyed in the earthquake, and the miss of the second branch had passed away. Today, the second and third branches were fighting again.
Fortunately, the members of both branches cared about their honour. They kept their acrimonious falling-out behind closed doors.
As the middle-man, the first branch was in an awkward position. They worried they would attract hate from both sides but also worried that if they continued to fight, it would harm their relationship. But people were biased. The first and second branches had supported each other in Jing over these years, and so the first branch naturally leaned more towards the second branch. So when the second branch accused the third branch, the old master of the first branch had said a few words, but he had not been in time to stop the second branch. As a result, the matter fell into a deadlock.
Earlier, when the third branch entered Jing, the two had been at slight odds because of some minor matters. But because everyone had not met for many years, they had appeared harmonious on the surface.
Discontent would not disappear over time, but accumulate. In the end, the death of the second branch miss became the fuse.
The reason was the miss from the second branch had talked with Sima Xiang before she raced her horse. According to the people who served the pair, the two had been slightly unhappy at the time, which was why the miss from the second branch had angrily turned around her horse and left.
No one knew what the two had said and Sima Xiang insisted that it was just a normal conversation. Only the deceased Second Miss Sima knew what the reality was.
Regardless of whether Sima Xiang admitted it or not, the mother of the second miss was certain this matter was related to Sima Xiang, so they started to argue behind closed doors.
“My pitiful daughter has been healthy and unharmed over these years. Who knew…” Second Mistress could not breathe between her tears. She looked at the members of the third branch like they were her enemies and not relatives. “After you entered Jing, how have we failed you that you would harm my daughter so?”
Hearing the second branch push Second Miss’ accident onto her own daughter, Third Mistress was also unhappy and immediately said, “People always say that it is not the words from unrelated people that are to be feared, but family members hitting other family members. Also, my girl has a gentle personality. Tell me, why would she harm Second Miss?”
“Of course she has a reason!” Second Mistress stared hatefully at Sima Xiang, like she was looking at an evil spirit.
As a junior, regardless of how terribly Second Mistress spoke, Sima Xiang could not respond directly to an elder. She saw that Second Mistress’ eyes were red and her voice harsh. The other was unspeakably terrifying so she couldn’t help but take a small step back.
“Of course she has a reason. My daughter is gone, so her chance to enter the palace is greater.” Second Mistress looked at Sima Xiang’s beautiful face. She was laughing and sobbing as though she was mad. “Even if my daughter is gone, there is the miss from the first branch. It would never have been you, this person with a viper’s heart.
“So young and already so ruthless. You want to mother the world?!” Second Mistress laughed out loud. “I will watch how badly you will end!”
Sima Ling, who was standing behind the mistress of the first branch, looked up and glanced at Sima Xiang. Then she lowered her head again.
“Second Mistress.” The old master of the first branch heard that Second Mistress’ words were getting more unpleasant so he spoke up. “Your eldest son is still in school. If you make a fuss like this, what will your child think?”
Shouting like this was not the conduct of a wife of an aristocratic family, but a common-born woman’s.
The old master of the second branch had passed away a few years ago, leaving behind one son and daughter that had grown up with the first branch. So the old master of the first branch had great authority with the second branch members.
The old master of the third branch was a noble person who only read the books of virtuous ones. He would not argue with other people. He just sat on the side and frowned, but did not speak.
The old master of the first branch saw him like this and felt a wave of anger. But everyone had sons and grandsons now. He could not lecture the other from the position of an older brother. He could only turn and comfort the members of the second branch.
Seeing the old master of the first branch speak, the members of the second branch suppressed their discontent and returned to their own courtyards.
A fortnight later, the third branch of the Sima Family used the excuse that it was not appropriate for their new residence to be left uninhabited, and moved out of the Sima Family into their new residence two streets away.
The day of their move, the people of the Sima Family were in harmony, so the people that came to celebrate could not see anything wrong.
They were really not one family. If they lived together, that was because they had a good relationship. It was normal for them to live apart. Even among the families that had been in Jing for centuries such as the Li, Gu, and Wu families, cousins did not reside together.
Many guests came to the housewarming banquet of the Sima Third Branch. Gu Cun Jing appeared at the banquet as the representative of the Gu Family. Ever since the young emperor ascended the throne, the Gu Family seemed to have absurd good luck with good things coming in bunches at them.
Gu Chang Ling became the emperor’s teacher and then managed to predict the earthquake. Later, his daughter got a title. His younger son was promoted from an ordinary sixth rank imperial guard to a fifth rank dragon guard, able to be around the emperor every day. No one knew how many good feelings he engendered in the Holy One in private.
Regardless of what they thought, everyone was composed in front of Gu Cun Jing as they exchanged greetings.
Translator Ramblings: A big family would share finances and resources if they are “together” and haven’t “divided their homes.” Usually, the male siblings only have their own “homes” after their parents pass away, and a family that stays together even after their parents die appears to be united and strong.