1.4 Ji House
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A woman, whose physical and facial features not looking any older than late thirties, was silently examining the row of little girls who were currently bowing their thin bodies towards her direction. There was about ten arms-length distance from where they were bowing to where she was half-sitting, half-lying on a carved mahogany daybed. It was stylishly decorated with embroidered cushions and lined with silk covered mattresses. By her side, a silent maid stood, ready to attend to her needs.

The daybed was raised slightly on a platform. Behind the platform, a wide window with thin muslin curtains slightly swayed from the breeze. Just under the low platform, by the wall, a younger woman of around mid-thirties, sat quietly with her attention on the cup of tea she was drinking.

From their attires, both women were certainly of the higher strata of the society. In Ji residence, they obviously were immediate members of the family.

Despite looking very well-maintained, with no apparent wrinkle on her face, the woman on the daybed looked somewhat wane and pale. The air was cold, but the maid by her side had to constantly wipe small beads of sweat on her forehead. She did not look healthy.

"Madame, the weather is cold," Meng-momo hurriedly walked to the daybed, and frowned when she felt the woman's icy skin. She threw a dark glance at the maid, "How have you been looking after the Madame! Letting her sit by an opened window in such cold weather!"

The maid quickly knelt on the floor, apologizing profusely, "This servant deserves to die! This servant deserves a punishment!"

"Meng-momo," the woman sighed, her voice soft but carried a stern tone, "It was me who was feeling warm. The breeze feels very nice and I called Chu-mei to accompany me reciting poetry and drinking tea."

The woman holding the cup of tea, Second Madame Hai FenChu, softly smiled in response upon being mentioned.

The woman that Meng-momo was attending to was the first official wife of Ji ChanFang, Wu JianRui. Wu JianRui was actually only five years younger than Meng-momo who was already approaching fifty, although her complexion looked much younger. Females of the wealthy families had their ways to keeping young. However, ever since giving birth to her daughter at an age that was considered very late to bear a child, her physique had become weaker. Although it was not life threatening, she constantly had to be on medication. And with her age and weak body, it was impossible to bear another child.

Ji LanBai, the only pearl in the Ji house born by Wu JianRui, was extremely doted by everyone in the family. 

Ji ChanFang dearly loved Wu JianRui. They had been childhood sweethearts, promising themselves to each other since when they were children. When Ji ChanFang had to leave the capital for his military advancements, Wu JianRui was stubborn and rejected various marriage prospects, having promised her heart to him. Even when she passed the society's norms of marriageable age, she waited for Ji ChanFang.

Years after marriage, when they constantly could not produce an offspring, Wu JianRui herself searched for a suitable candidate to be his concubine. With her husband's standing and status, she knew how important it was that Ji ChanFang had an heir. 

Hai FenChu was selected as she had a suitable background: she was only the third daughter from a concubine of a small town's official who had passed away. Her status was not high so her family would not be troubled that she was to enter the general's household as just a concubine. If anything, with her past status as merely a concubine's daughter and with no backing after her father's death, entering the prestigious general's household was like winning a lottery. There was no trouble as her official father had passed away and there was no one else from her previous family to claim this 'prestige'.

Although she knew she was initially recruited just to bear Ji ChanFang's seeds, she was still thankful to Wu JianRui who technically had pulled her out of her miserable situation. To her surprise, only with a handful of times that Ji Chan Fang bedded her, she got pregnant. 

And her child turned out to be a boy. 

Ji ChanFang never touched her again after her pregnancy. When Wu JianRui gave birth to Ji Lan Bai five years later, with no more further prospects of child-bearing, Ji ChanFang elevated her status to be his second wife. There was no more woman to enter the household's inner residence.

Both women were aware and resigned to this arrangement. Hai FenChu would be lying if she said she was not envious of Ji ChanFang's affection towards Wu JianRui. However, the Second Madame was not one who would forget her benefactor. Her living condition was never compromised, she lived better than ever, and both Wu JianRui and Ji ChanFang treated her son as their own. Thus, she respected Wu JianRui and never went beyond her status to make things difficult.

"Are these the girls for the Young Miss?" Hai FenChu asked, turning her attention to the little girls still bowing at the door. She walked closer to the girls.

"To answer to Second Madame: Yes," Meng-momo answered politely.

For the second time in her new life, Mia's chin was lifted again by a white delicate finger, her body was once more 'molested' with the other's soft touches. She grimaced but this time she kept her head down and endured with no resistance. Meng-momo had previously told her personally that she was not to look at her new masters' eyes directly. It would be considered very rude as it was normally considered a form of defiance. Mia kept her gaze down, but could not help to steal a few looks when Hai FenChu examined the other girls.

"Rui-jie, I think they actually don't look bad at all," Hai FenChu smiled, "Although they are very thin, their physiques are quite healthy."

Mia could feel the latter's gaze suddenly turned to her, causing her to quickly shifted her gaze down again, finding her bare foot interesting.

"In fact, some are quite.... interesting," Hai FenChu mused softly, her voice was not quite heard by the other adults in the room. It did not escape Hai FenChu's eyes that one particular little girl had been sneaking looks towards her, Wu JianRui, the bedroom, the ceilings, everything that her eyes could lay sights on. The little girl was certainly a lively one, despite the small frame.

"Un. I trust Chu-mei's and Meng-momo's judgment," Wu JianRui nodded, "Clean them up and let their training begin."

"Rest assured, Madame," Meng-momo smiled, patting the back of the other's hands, "This servant knows what to do."

And just like that, Mia was herded away from the front of the bedroom to God-who-knows where in this massive vicinity of a house. She was bitter inside. Guards were stationed at every corner and a lot of maids were walking around, keeping busy. Some were attending to the oriental gardens and flower beds, some were cleaning the pathways, some carrying various goods for their masters. This house was bigger and fancier than the five star resort she had been to in Thailand in her previous life. No wonder a stupendous amount of workers were needed. In fact Mia was sure that she would get hopelessly lost if she were to be left alone.

If she had not been briefed by Meng-momo that this was a General's household, she would think that she had entered a palace. It told her how high her new employer's status was. However, on a more depressing side, it would be nigh impossible for her to escape. Not only was she currently in a little girl's body with strength probably not more than that of a chicken's, the tall walls protecting the household, as well as those guards, would not even let a fly in or out.

*** *** ***

Double-lidded eyes; eyes that reflected luster, seemingly always having waters in them; thin but full eyebrows; thin but full eyelashes; round small chin; nose that had slightly higher bridge, full thicker lips.

Mia could see her current features reflected in the basin of water she had in front of her to clean her face. The silver lining of this whole voodoo-transmigration-witchcraft thingy was that she had a face that was familiar to her. In fact, her eye shape, her nose, her thin but full strands of hair, were all that she had in her previous life. 

Having a mix of English-Chinese blood, in her previous life, Mia had a touch of Caucasian look in her oriental features. This time, she had more oriental tone, more of her Chinese roots. With her current skin tone, she looked more like her previous mother, but with a touch of her deceased father's most prominent features - the double lid, the higher nose bridge.

Although her current double eyelids were much less noticeable than what she used to have, it still gave her one aspect she never liked much. Combined with her big eyes, full eyelashes, and slightly down-turned eye shape, she looked weak. She looked very non-threatening, she looked unassuming. With her eyes that always seemed to be teary, she always looked sleepy and non-focused.

It had been a constant battle for her in her previous career for people to take her seriously. Although the modern world was advanced and there was no shortage of women obtaining well-paying occupations, Mia had to work twice as hard. Her features were too unimposing, too calm, too soft to demand attention at first sights. Only when she talked, then she was able to show what she was capable of, what her brain was capable of.

Throughout her life, this caused her to always be alert of her surroundings, her peers, her environment. After all, with her soft appearance not helping her cause, she needed to observe her own chances and she needed to choose her own timing to grab those chances. She was a planner and a hard worker. When she reached a goal, there was always another goal. She was always hungry for achievements - planning all the time, thinking all the time. After graduating university, she worked hard burning countless midnight oils to advance to be one of the executives in the corporation she was working at. Even then, she was not one of the major decision makers. 

However at a business function where she had to give a presentation of her department's quarterly strategies, one of the major shareholders of the corporation she worked at noticed her.  He gave her a few opportunities, tested her perseverance and skills. After four years of strategies, decision making, and lot of travels building connections she needed to support her standing, the board of directors finally recommended her to have eleven percent of the corporation's shares.

This was trillions of dollars money-making empire. With the share offer, it was practically money, incentives, and perks unheard of that was to be granted to a young twenty-nine-year old female. Even without her normal salary, the dividend she would receive in the next two years could pay off her condo's mortgage.

And just when she was flying to reach Germany for the next day's board's conference to seal the deal and gave her a small celebration as the newest board member, the damn plane crashed.

 

Just in case you are new to the story :) Ji LanBai's name was derived from the character for 'orchid' (Lan) and 'white (Bai)

 

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