Chapter 104

The situation was basically this.

Yan Qian had made a fuss about going to cool off in the garden. Eldest Madam Wu didn’t have the energy to bother with her and just ordered the servants to watch her. Luckily, Yan Qian was tactful and didn’t touch her bottom line. The servants just assumed she wanted to get some air and merely made sure she didn’t encounter anyone.

Who would have thought Yan Qian still found an opportunity to have a chance encounter with the Wu household’s eldest principal grandson Wu Feng Hao?

Wu Fueng Hao was someone with splendid prospects and overflowed with talent. He was merely twenty-five but was already a meritorious candidate at the Hanlin Academy. Normal people wouldn’t qualify for these things and there were no backdoors to take. Only the top few scorers of each exam had this opportunity.

For Wu Feng Hao to reach this point at twenty-five, he was naturally studious and had the personality of a bookworm. Furthermore, he was kind and pitied the weak. Yan Qian wasn’t shooting blindly when she chose him as her target.

Yan Qian had inherited Concubine Pei’s weak and delicate appearance. She was able to evoke pity without even saying anything. When the maid watching her went to the bathroom, she ran off in a panic and bumped headlong into Wu Feng Hao who was passing by, falling into his arms.

Wu Feng Hao steadied her as she looked tearfully at him. She shivered in fear and lowered her head. She then quietly begged him not to say that he had seen her.

Seeing such a feeble and pitiful girl, Wu Feng Hao’s curiosity was aroused and he questioned her a little. Yan Qian didn’t have time to answer him, looking as though she were afraid of being caught. He led her into a study behind the garden.

This study was where Wu Feng Hao spent his time reading every day. The view was extremely good and it was very quiet. Wu Feng Hao liked the silence and the entire estate knew this. Normally, no one dared come bother him here.

Yan Qian thus hesitantly told him some selective pieces of information about herself.

According to her, she was an extremely pitiful concubine born daughter who lived a hard life under her principal mother. Once during an outing, her cousin had wormed some information out of her to curry favor with Wu Qiong Qiong.

Wu Qiong Qiong was Wu Feng Hao’s sister, and this made him even more curious. Therefore, Yan Qian continued on with her story.

As a concubine born daughter without any backing, Yan Qian ended up being embroiled in the argument. The principal mother hated her for ruining her principal sister’s name. Not only did she punish her ruthlessly, she even planned on marrying her far away to a widower who forced his previous wife to death. Yan Qian truly couldn’t endure any longer and ran off. She was then robbed before running into Wu Qiong Qiong who was returning from Mt. Meng.

She had assumed Wu Qiong Qiong invited her to stay out of sympathy and kindness. Who knew she had gone out of the frying pan into the fire. Wu Qiong Qiong had wicked intentions and wanted to use Yan Qian against her principal sister.

This part was something Yan Qian guessed based on the situation over the past few days. She didn’t really know if this was the truth.

However, Wu Qiong Qiong was Wu Feng Hao’s sister, and he knew her very well. Although Wu Feng Hao was a bit of a blockhead, he still knew the ways of the world. Through Yan Qian’s fear and the fact that she was watched by maids all day, Wu Feng Hao already guessed it couldn’t be anything good.

His face turned ugly on the spot.

Although Wu Qiong Qiong was his sister, he didn’t really like her. Wu Qiong Qiong was cunning and unruly. Due to being spoiled by her grandfather and cherished by her mother, she was uncontrollable. When she was home, she cursed and beat her servants. When she was out, she often got into arguments. Wu Feng Hao was aware of this.

Wu Wen Jun’s wife Pei Jia Yi often suffered Wu Qiong Qiong’s abuse. Wu Feng Hao’s wife Liu-shi was the same, but this young sister-in-law had her mother-in-law’s support, so she could only endure. Wu Feng Hao and Liu-shi had a good relationship. He knew his wife was gentle and soft. Seeing her get bullied by his sister, Wu Feng Hao also had some thoughts about it.

This was the effect of someone’s impression. If you give someone a certain impression normally, then even if you didn’t do something, they would judge based on that impression. Therefore, Wu Feng Hao didn’t doubt Yan Qian’s words.

Yan Qian cried like raindrops on a pear blossom. She was pretty to begin with and evoked sympathy to some degree. With such a sob story, Wu Feng Hao couldn’t help but sigh.

Yan Qian also told Wu Feng Hao about her household putting up white. Therefore, this girl in front of him was really all by herself. She had nothing, and it was all due to his own sister.

Wu Feng Hao wanted to compensate her in some way, and came up with a few ideas for her. For example, he would go convince his mother to have her escort Yan Qian home. She could explain that the little girl had just lost track of time while playing and forgotten to notify them, resulting in such a mishap. It wasn’t irreversible. Unexpectedly, Yan Qian refused.

She struggled for breath through her sobs. “If I’m sent home, I’m definitely dead. Running off this time meant burning all my bridges. I would rather hang myself somewhere than marry that old widower.”

Actually Wu Feng Hao was also just desperately coming up with ideas. Let’s not mention if Eldest Madam Wu was willing to do so. Even if she really escorted Yan Qian home, how was she to explain it to the Yan household? Was this something that could be waved away by saying the child was insensible?

That was definitely not possible. Sure, Yan Qian could have forgotten, Wu Qiong Qiong could have forgotten, but what about the elders in the Wu household? Did they forget for so many days?! Furthermore, seeing Eldest Madam Wu send so many people to keep an eye of Yan Qian, her outcome definitely wouldn’t be good.

“Young master Wu, I beg you to save me. Only you are able to do so now. I don’t feel hate or resentment. To put it plainly, I’m just a scapegoat for my principal sister. Treat it as me owing her in my past life, and repaying her in this one. Can you just take pity on me? Treat me like a kitten or a puppy. Give me some shelter and I will repay you by being a servant….”

How could becoming a servant save Yan Qian?

But that also wasn’t what she was aiming for!

Being guided and mislead like this, Wu Feng Hao made the decision that satisfied Yan Qian as expected.

He decided to take Yan Qian as his concubine, and bring her under his wing.

Of course, Wu Feng Hao said this was just for appearances. If Yan Qian has someone in her heart in the future, or if she wanted to leave the Wu estate, he would fake her death. After all, Yan Qian was someone without any background now. Her identity was no longer important.

Yan Qian was overjoyed and kowtowed to him several times before he stopped her.

Eldest Madam Wu had finally comforted her daughter a little when she unexpectedly received such news….

Her son had come to tell her that he wanted to take that bitch she wanted to swallow alive as his concubine!

Furthermore, he even put on an appearance like he was helping his mother relieve some burden. It truly made Eldest Madam Wu want to spit blood.

But what could Eldest Madam Wu say? First of all, their weakness was truly being seized by that person, and the only method to deal with her had been blocked. Even if Eldest Madam Wu was Wu Feng Hao’s mother, she also wanted to maintain a benevolent appearance in front of her son. How could she bluntly say that bitch had to be killed to prevent future problems?

Therefore, Yan Qian got her wish.

The eldest branch’s Wu Feng Hao’s pavilion put up red and alcohol, treating Yan Qian as a maid who was elevated to a concubine. She moved into a small lateral courtyard behind Wu Feng Hao and Liu-shi’s residence.

The story naturally didn’t end so simply.

Wu Feng Hao was truly a good man. He didn’t intend on taking advantage of someone in trouble, but couldn’t withstand that person having her own intentions. Despite her being his concubine in name, he hadn’t intended on truly taking it as fact.

But since the two of them were nominally married, and Yan Qian kept habitually drawing Wu Feng Hao’s looks to her, after a few back and forths, the matter proceeded as expected.

Wu Feng Hao got another person who shared his bed, one that understood him well, was lonely and without backing, and also beautiful as a flower.

Yan Qian finally found some use for what she had learned from Concubine Pei. She handled her husband on one hand, handled the wife on the other, and still found some spare time to develop her own influence.

Liu-shi was soft-natured and naturally wasn’t a match for Yan Qian. Yan Qian was also good at hoodwinking others, and would always pretend Liu-shi bullied her when Wu Feng Hao wasn’t there. Wu Feng Hao thus had some disagreement with Liu-shi. Yan Qian was like a fish in the water in the Wu household’s rear residence.

Wu Qiong Qiong wasn’t pleased.

After the wounds on her face healed, it inevitably left behind a scar.

The scar wasn’t very visible and could be completely concealed with makeup. However, Wu Qiong Qiong still felt resentful. After finding out that bitch had actually become her eldest brother’s concubine, she cursed her while occasionally going over to make trouble. Yan Qian truly suffered quite a lot.

However, with Wu Feng Hao’s backing, Wu Qiong Qiong also didn’t get what she wanted.

While Yan Qian struggled with Wu Qiong Qiong and Liu-shi in the Wu household’s rear residence, the Wu household was suddenly struck by an unprecedented calamity. High Official Wu was arrested by the department of justice.

This matter needed to be told from the beginning.

At the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s banquet, Wu Qiong Qiong and her lackey Pei Jia Yu was led by Yan Qian into ruining Yan Yan’s name. Unfortunately, Yan Yan had always been swift in taking revenge. Not caring about her name, she had slapped Yan Qian’s face raw and even spared one for Wu Qiong Qiong as well.

Not only was she hit, she was also embarrassed. Their scheme was also made public. With Second Madam Shen backing her niece up, Eldest Madam Wu was forced to go and apologize. She ended up venting her anger on the Pei household.

The Pei household’s relationship with the Wu household was secret to begin with. Eldest Madam Wu’s actions were thoughtless and left them with no leeway. She didn’t hold back in ruining the Pei household’s name. The Pei household’s women naturally didn’t take this lying down and the two households became fierce enemies.

Since Assistant Minister Pei had been exiled, the Pei household’s only backing had collapsed. They currently relied on the Wu household and were thus no match for Eldest Madam Wu. The Pei household had endured at first, but after a while they couldn’t take it any longer and decided to tear everything down.

Now, High Official Wu was in big trouble. He got implicated by the women’s argument.

Therefore, matters between women couldn’t be called insignificant.

Wasn’t this a case of someone high up being implicated by someone below him?

***

The previous case of fraud had a new chapter. It turns out Assistant Minister Pei had taken the blame for someone.

That person was High Official Wu.

Emperor Xi was enraged and ordered the department of justice to investigate things thoroughly.

This matter blew up and the capital boiled over.

Xu Xiang Rong was under quite a bit of pressure these days. High Official Wu was part of Senior Concubine Xu’s faction, and was even one of their main pillars. Xu Xiang Rong put in a lot of effort in trying to resolve this matter.

Despite this, it wasn’t easy for High Official Wu to escape responsibility.

The department of justice belonged to the crown prince’s faction. Having finally seized their opponent’s shortcomings, they held nothing back in their investigation. Once everything was done, even the innocent became guilty. Regardless, many of Senior Concubine Xu’s people got implicated and dragged down.

Luckily Pei Nan was a useless one. Before anyone could mention bringing him back to the capital for interrogation, he spat out a mouthful of blood and his soul departed for the underworld. This saved Xu Xiang Rong quite a bit of work. In the end, although High Official Wu wasn’t able to keep his position, his person remained unharmed. He could only return home and retire. It wasn’t clear if this was a blessing for him.

Regardless, it wasn’t a blessing for Senior Concubine Xu’s faction. The loss of High Official Wu meant the loss of many young talents for them to use. Empress Xiao was in a good mood these days, and had a smile all the time. On the other hand, Senior Concubine Xu was gloomy, and locked herself in her palace claiming she was ill. A few days later, Emperor Xi took the initiative to visit her at the Chunluan Palace, making Empress Xiao’s expression turn from bright to dark.

This won’t be mentioned for now.

Back at the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, Yan Yan was about to come of age. Shen Yi Yao was preparing to hold a large ceremony for her.

A girl’s coming of age ceremony had a very special meaning. Therefore, most households would hold a ceremony befitting of their status.

When Shen Yi Yao came of age, the usually low-key Zhenguo Duke arranged an extremely large ceremony for her. Now that it was Yan Yan’s turn, Shen Yi Yao naturally wouldn’t treat it lightly. Even if it wasn’t like her own back then, it still had to be respectable. Especially since her daughter was the future fourth prince consort. It naturally had to be grand.

Of course no one would prevent it. However, this matter resulted in a few unhappy events.

Holding a ceremony for Yan Yan naturally required a lot of arrangements. Things like food and décor, manpower, ceremonial objects and a master of ceremonies. The Weiyuan Marquis Estate also had to undergo some renovations and decorations prior to the event. They couldn’t seem lacking in front of others.

All this required silver, and it naturally came from the public funds.

Chen-shi currently managed the household, but was only responsible for managing the affairs and not the silver. The silver came from the old madam and went directly in to the accounting office. Chen-shi naturally knew whether there was silver in the accounts or not. Like Xue-shi, Chen-shi had also cursed the old madam secretly for being stingy.

This time, the silver required for Yan Yan’s ceremony was naturally reported to Chen-shi. However, that’s where things got stuck. Chen-shi was also extremely aggrieved. There was no silver in the account, so how was she supposed to get the payment? Shen Yi Yao was working up a storm on that side whereas Chen-shi didn’t have the money to pay the people.

Shen Yi Yao got angry in front of Chen-shi for the first time. Chen-shi stammered, saying second sis-in-law was spending too much and she didn’t have the authority to handle it.

This was to say they needed the old madam’s approval.

Xue-shi had come with Shen Yi Yao to find Chen-shi. Seeing Chen-shi avoiding responsibility, she couldn’t help but mock: “Third sis-in-law, a miss coming of age in the estate isn’t a small matter. We could only let it go for the eldest miss’s coming of age. It’s our eldest lord’s fault for being incapable, so it was fine to hold a small event by ourselves. However, Ah Yan is the second brother’s principal daughter, and is the true young mistress of the estate. She’s also the future fourth prince consort, so how can we be stingy here!?”

After a pause, she continued: “Also, your words aren’t pleasing to my ears. What do you mean by second sis-in-law is spending too much? Is this event something that can be skimped on? We can’t make a joke of ourselves in front of others.”

Chen-shi hit her mouth in annoyance and continuously admitted fault: “Second sis-in-law, I’m clumsy with words and that wasn’t what I meant. But you also know the household’s silver is managed by mom. I’m only the household manager in name, and there are many things I don’t have the authority to decide. There isn’t any surplus silver in the account, and I also can’t just conjure it into existence.”

Shen Yi Yao’s expression wasn’t good. She turned and left.

The vendors who had delivered goods to the estate were still waiting for their payment. Shen Yi Yao could only use her own silver to pay for it.

Xue-shi said she was foolish, and that she shouldn’t do this no matter how much silver she had. This was implying that Yan Yan wasn’t a miss in the estate. For her mom to use her own silver in holding a coming of age ceremony, it was unreasonable no matter how one looked at it.

Shen Yi Yao also didn’t feel comfortable, and these words poked at her heart. Therefore, she and Xue-shi went to see the old madam.

When the two arrived, Chen-shi was there as well, seemingly telling the old madam about this matter.

Seeing Shen Yi Yao, Chen-shi looked a little awkward.

She had naturally come to report things, and took the opportunity to put Shen Yi Yao down as well.

She said Shen Yi Yao was like a spoiled lady from a wealthy household, insisting on using the best for everything. A rough estimate showed she had used at least three thousand taels, and that was an underestimate. She said no matter how well-off the household was, it couldn’t withstand Shen Yi Yao acting this way.

Chen-shi had been managing the household for a while. The old madam was nitpicky and she had been berated a lot. The silver was also tightly managed and the old madam was very stingy. Chen-shi wasn’t a generous person to begin with, and she gradually felt that since she was managing things, Shen Yi Yao spending more would make her suffer a loss.

These days things weren’t going smoothly for the old madam. She initially expected to get some silver from their farmsteads, but the weather unexpectedly changed during harvest season. The managers all reported that this year’s harvest had suffered calamity. Forget about any harvest, they might not even make rent.

The household was already on the verge of being exposed. Hearing Chen-shi say that a coming of age ceremony required three thousand taels, how could the old madam’s expression be pleasant? She was scolding Shen Yi Yao for being a wastrel when the servants reported the second madam had come.

Therefore, the moment Shen Yi Yao came in, the old madam fired off the first round.

“I heard old third daughter-in-law say that you plan on holding a coming of age ceremony for Ah Yan, and that it has to be grand. Just the expenses are several thousand taels?”

Shen Yi Yao gave Chen-shi a glance.

Chen-shi half-lowered her face and turned red. She complained about the old madam in her heart for putting it that way in front of second sis-in-law. Would Shen Yi Yao think she was instigating things with the old madam?

That was a given. Anyone would think so after hearing the old madam’s tone and seeing her expression.

Xue-shi mockingly glanced at Chen-shi and spoke with a smile, “That’s not it. This Ah Yan’s status isn’t ordinary. She’s the future fourth prince consort, so it cannot be a small affair. Second sis-in-law actually did her best to reduce expenses already to reach this amount. Isn’t this also to increase mom’s dignity? Let those outsiders see that our Weiyuan Marquis Estate isn’t worse off than anyone. This estate has a daughter-in-law of the royal family.”

Xue-shi was truly good with words. She had given Shen Yi Yao a way out and also gave the old madam an opportunity to step down. Most people would naturally go along with her. The problem was that the old madam wasn’t like most people.

Well, it wasn’t that she wasn’t normal. She just couldn’t afford to act normally.

Three thousand taels. That was half a year’s worth of expenses!

If she had thirty thousand taels, then she would naturally be willing to spare three thousand taels to improve their reputation. The problem was that she couldn’t even fork out three thousand taels at the moment, so how could she care about her reputation?

A rich person who didn’t worry about their livelihood naturally had the means to buy some fancy ornaments, increase their influence and improve their temperament, making themselves seem extraordinary. But a poor person who couldn’t even fill their stomachs had to make a living and wouldn’t have the time to think about things like that.

This reasoning applied here.

The old madam also wanted face, but the problem was that they almost couldn’t maintain their livelihood anymore. What use did she have for face? If her face could be exchanged for several thousand taels, the old madam wouldn’t mind making that trade!

Therefore, the old madam not only refused to step down using Xue-shi’s words, she even started scolding her as well. Her spittle flew all over!

“You, Xue-shi, don’t you get tired of hearing your own voice? You made it sound so nice, but other households all run things frugally to display our nobility’s virtue in living simply. Only you have such a large face, and are accustomed to putting on airs! I know you’re trying to borrow Ah Yan’s spotlight to find a good marriage for Yan Ru. The future fourth prince consort’s cousin also has quite the ring to it. But if this violates our estate’s way of doing things, then I won’t permit it!”

These words made Xue-shi’s face turned pale and dark.

She didn’t deny that she had such thoughts, but anyone would have them!

Improving Ah Yan’s reputation, improving her own household’s reputation, improving the entire estate’s reputation…how did this became an extreme evil in the old madam and Chen-shi’s mouths?

Also, what frugally running their household? Some nobles did indeed put up such a front, but that was just a performance for the emperor. Which household would really do so? They were merely draping a nice-looking layer of fur over themselves. Those who have lived in the capital for a while all knew it was an act. Instead, this act was now being used as fact. Ultimately, she didn’t want to hand over the silver!

Shen Yi Yao naturally understood her meaning. These words seemed to be scolding Xue-shi, but was actually saying that she was the one making trouble.

Her expression immediately turned angry. How was holding a coming of age ceremony for her daughter making trouble? Based on Ah Yan’s status, they would become a laughing stock if they held a small event!

The old madam truly had such intentions. She knew Shen Yi Yao had always been thin-skinned. Now that she was scolded implicitly, she would be too embarrassed to say anything.

As for Yan Yan’s matter, Shen Yi Yao had money. She naturally wouldn’t mistreat her own daughter.

The old madam’s calculations were very sharp, but unfortunately Shen Yi Yao was no longer the same as before.

“Then mom’s meaning is that the estate won’t give any silver for Ah Yan’s ceremony?”

These simple words directly made the old madam swallow her spittle. Her expression suddenly became very interesting.

Her heart beat rapidly but she also couldn’t appear to be angry.

The old madam could naturally use these words to faint in anger. Then, this matter would be left unsettled. But if she did so, everyone would say that for the sake of not giving her own granddaughter a ceremony, she had fainted in anger. Then she would be truly embarrassed. If anyone let this matter leak out, she wouldn’t be able to carry on anymore. After all, anyone would criticize this.

The old madam wanted both to save money and to save face. This was extremely difficult to do. Despite all these thoughts, everything happened in an instant. The old madam said rigidly: “I never said that. I’m just teaching you juniors to be more frugal.”

“Then daughter-in-law misunderstood mom’s meaning.” Shen YI Yao smiled apologetically and said: “Then, how much is the estate prepared to spend on Ah Yan’s ceremony? Eldest sis-in-law mentioned the importance already so I won’t repeat everything again for mom and third sis-in-law. For the sake of this matter, we definitely cannot let Ah Yan feel neglected and we cannot let the Weiyuan Marquis Estate lose face in front of the capital’s nobles.”

Chen-shi didn’t expect Shen Yi Yao to bring her up in front of everyone. This made it sound like not giving money for the third miss’s ceremony was her idea. Although she truly had something to do with it, this was still openly slapping her face. Chen-shi’s entire neck turned red.

Xue-shi curled her lips. Did she truly think everyone was blind? In the past they were just too lazy to call her out. Did she think they couldn’t see her little moves behind the scenes?

The old madam glared at Shen Yi Yao and hesitated a while before saying: “You also know the estate has a lot of businesses and there are a lot of mouths to feed. So many misses are about to be married off. How about this, the estate will cover five hundred taels.”

Five hundred taels?

Five hundred taels was truly little, and didn’t sound good at all.

When Yan Ru came of age, Xue-shi had made a huge fuss before the old madam also spent five hundred taels to hold a small ceremony. Almost no outsiders had been invited, and it was just the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s people and Xue-shi’s maternal household. The eldest branch even managed to save some of the money. Xue-shi found some excuse to keep it and planned on using it as her daughter’s dowry.

Shen Yi Yao didn’t speak and merely looked at the old madam.

The old madam paused and revealed a pained expression: “A thousand taels! Ah Yan’s status is higher than Yan Ru’s after all. A thousand taels it is!”

Shen Yi Yao no longer nagged. She nodded in thanks and left.

On the way, Xue-shi quietly discussed with her, “Looks like the estate truly isn’t doing well. The estate might not spend any money on Ah Yan’s dowry later either. It’ll be another annoyance.”

Without waiting for Shen Yi Yao to respond, Xue-shi continued: “Aiya, what should my Yan Ru do in the future!? Ah Yan has a mom with silver, and won’t lose face regardless. I really have to come up with something for our eldest miss later.”

Shen Yi Yao earnestly helped her plan, “Don’t worry about this for now. There will be quite a few madams at Ah Yan’s ceremony. I’ll dress up the eldest miss and have her be responsible for welcoming the guests. At that time, she will definitely catch some people’s eyes. We can settle the marriage first before worrying about the dowry. There will be a way with little silver or lots of silver. We’ll let the eldest miss get married grandly for sure.”

Xue-shi said gratefully: “Second sis-in-law, it’s all thanks to you. Otherwise, just Yan Ru’s marriage already gives me a headache. I was going to rely on this estate and let everyone end up well. Now look, there isn’t the slightest bit of good but there’s a whole lot of bad.”

Shen Yi Yao sighed and shook her head helplessly. She also didn’t know what to say.

Author’s notes:

Yan Qian is done, next is the old madam….

Of course Yan Qian isn’t going to be left like this. However, since she schemed her way into that position, she’s offended her sister-in-law, her mother-in-law and the principal wife. She cannot last too long just relying on a man.

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