After Shen Yi Yao and Xue-shi left, the old madam had Chen-shi scram as well. She then sat with a dark expression, not saying anything for a long while. Matron Zhao didn’t dare say anything to comfort her. It was useless to say anything at this moment. Since the old madam didn’t wish for the estate’s financial situation to be known, they could only brace themselves.
But where was this thousand taels of silver supposed to come from?
Matron Zhao was filled with worry. The old madam had no silver left. No one knew this more clearly than Matron Zhao.
“Go take the gold headdress inlaid with jade in my jewelry box and deal with it.”
Matron Zhao shook all over and couldn’t help but say: “But, but that’s old madam’s favorite headdress. Such a precious thing will be hard to find in the future.”
That headdress was given to the old madam by Shen Yi Yao for her fiftieth birthday.
The headdress was made up of twelve pieces. There were hairpins for the top and sides, for the main pattern, for the covering and for the topknot, as well as the headpiece. They were all made with a good amount of pure gold and inlaid with jade. Not only was it exquisitely crafted, the inlaid jades were all emerald green and lustrous. They were the finest quality monarch jades. The old madam was extremely fond of it and was reluctant to even wear it normally. This was one of her most expensive pieces of jewelry.
“Hard to find? That thing isn’t worth its price just sitting there. Shen Yi Yao gifted it, and now it’s being used for her daughter’s sake. It can’t be called a loss.”
As of now, the old madam could only comfort herself this way.
Matron Zhao hesitated for a bit and asked: “Are we pawning or selling?”
As she asked this, she hurriedly held her breath.
As expected, the old madam’s face twisted and she panted heavily. After a while, she finally said: “Sell it!”
A long, long time ago, every time the old madam had Matron Zhao pawn off pieces of her dowry, she had some wishful thoughts. She thought that once she had the money, she would buy it all back. However, every time she ended up with some silver, there was always somewhere else that needed it. As time passed, these things were purposefully forgotten by her.
As they pawned more and more things, the old madam had also understood the reality of the situation. Selling was worth over twice as much as pawning. This was why Matron Zhao asked this.
In the end, that headdress was sold for over twenty-five hundred taels. Not only was it enough to deal with Shen Yi Yao’s demands but the old madam also had quite a bit left over.
Xue-shi spent the entire night tossing and turning. Yan Zhi was also unable to sleep because of her, and sat up.
“Why are you flipping like a pancake instead of sleeping at this hour!?”
Xue-shi also sat up and lit the small lamp by the bed before leaning against her pillow.
She chattered for a while, telling him about what had happened today. She then said: “Do you think our household is really out of silver? Where did all those businesses go? The old madam doesn’t even care about her face anymore. I truly cannot figure out why she would do this. Based on the income from our businesses, it should be sufficient for everyone to be well off. Why be so miserly?”
Yan Zhi frowned and said impatiently: “How should I know?!”
“Say, do you think the old madam screwed up all the businesses? But the estate hasn’t spent any significant sum of money over the years. Do you think our Yan Ru can still get a dowry from the estate once her marriage is settled? We’ve done our best to save up over the years and have sufficient silver to give Yan Ru a dowry. Yet apart from that, the rest of us still have to make a living. Furthermore, our oldest son isn’t young anymore, he’s sixteen. It’s not too late for him to marry in a couple of years, but at that time we have to offer betrothal gifts to the bride. That’s another sum of silver. There’s also lass Ling, and also old two….”
Xue-shi grew more bothered the more she thought about it. She couldn’t help but squeeze Yan Zhi. “My hair is turning white from worry, how are you able to fall asleep!? From what I see, we might have been better off if we just left the household back then. We’d be given a few businesses, and if we lived frugally we wouldn’t be struggling so. The old madam has kept the income tight to her chest all these years, and no one else can get involved. Apart from the daily necessities, there is no excess silver. It’s hard to do anything. Now that we finally have some savings, our children have all grown and money is needed everywhere.”
Yan Zhi was very unwilling to listen to Xue-shi fuss about these things, especially those “what ifs”. He said with a displeased expression: “You are also well aware how those who were forced to leave the household ended up! Where are all these “what ifs” coming from. I’ve told you long ago we had to expect the worst. Just treat those few businesses as our payment for eating and drinking well all these years in the estate. Don’t mention these things again in the future!”
But how could they just treat it as payment for food and drink!?
Yan Zhi was clever and had a silver tongue from birth. He knew how to coax people. Not only was he cherished by the old madam, the old marquis had also favored him quite a bit. He was the eldest son despite being concubine born, and had been raised in the old madam’s residence. The things he ate and wore was a level higher than those other concubine born children. Although he couldn’t be compared to his two principal brothers, he was still treated rather well.
When the old marquis divided up the household assets prior to his death, Yan Ting and Yan Qu got the best of it. Yan Zhi naturally couldn’t compare to them, but was much better off than the other concubine born children. Not only did he get two stores in excellent locations, he also got four small farmsteads. He also got over two thousand taels from the old marquis’s personal savings. Before he could get ahold of these things, they were all gathered by the old madam and placed into the public funds.
Over such a short period of time, even if everyone in the eldest branch had eight mouths, they wouldn’t have eaten enough for it to be worth giving up these sources of income.
Yan Zhi looked like an oily person but he was actually rather filial and also dependable. He had always felt that no matter what, his dad and the old madam had treated him quite well. Although he was spoiled by the old madam back then and was now useless, she had still cherished him as half a son. His family had also gotten some benefits from living in the estate.
Everyone had their own thoughts about their situation. His flattery and fawning wasn’t without ulterior motives. Similarly, he didn’t mind his mom being biased towards her biological sons. No one was without ulterior motives.
But sometimes, it still hurt. No matter the reason, Yan Zhi would still feel something.
Neither he nor his wife were fools, and they had seen the hints long ago. Xue-shi was a woman and she was in charge of their branch’s silver. Therefore, she worried more and couldn’t help but complain to Yan Zhi. Yan Zhi thought things through more thoroughly than she did, and also cared about his past relationships. After all, since things had gotten to this point, what could they do if the businesses were truly gone? Could they go make a fuss to the old madam? They could only pretend they never had it to begin with. This would make them feel a little better.
“Don’t mention it? Don’t mention whether we have enough to survive on in the future or if our sons have enough to get married? If we depend on your meager salary, we would have long since starved. I admit dad had treated us well and the old madam is decent on the surface. However, don’t forget you’re surnamed Yan. Should you go die just because you’re concubine born? You always compare yourselves to those concubine born children, but have your forgotten how much you’ve sacrificed up to now? You’ve never called your old concubine mom your mom a single time. She remains inside the whole time while we play dumb and pretend she doesn’t exist. For the sake of not attracting the old madam’s hatred, you’ve played dumb for so many years and muddled your days away. Yan Zhi, aren’t you sullen? Let me tell you, you owe her nothing. You’ve earned everything you’ve gotten!”
Yan Zhi glared at Xue-shi. After a long, long time, a trace of depression appeared on his face.
“Fine, you’re right. But even so, what can we do?”
Xue-shi couldn’t say anything for a while.
“Enough, enough.” Yan Zhi made her lie down again and blew out the lamp. “Why think about so many things? Let’s take it one step at a time. Things won’t get as bad as you think. Even if the heavens collapsed, we still have old two here to prop it up!”
Every time the two discussed these things, Yan Zhi would use these words to comfort her.
However, the so-called “heaven propping person” hadn’t been feeling too pleased with himself lately.
What happened previously could be called the biggest humiliation in Yan Ting’s life.
He considered killing Xu Xiang Rong several times to vent his hatred, but didn’t have the courage to do so. He could only choose to avoid it.
These days, quite a few friends had tried to meet up with Yan Ting but he had refused them all. Every day he would show up for work and return to the estate once he got off. After returning, apart from occasionally going to the old madam’s place, he didn’t even go to the rear residence. He stayed in his study out front the whole time.
Despite this, he still ran into Xu Xiang Rong a couple of times while he was working in the palace. Although the two didn’t interact, Xu Xiang Rong’s gaze made Yan Ting shiver in his bones.
Yan Ting was unable to sleep for several nights, and used alcohol to numb himself. Without alcohol, he couldn’t fall asleep. With alcohol, he ended up having nightmares.
Within this short month, Yan Ting had rapidly lost weight.
The old madam assumed it was due to him being overworked and also having to deal with Yan Qian’s disappearance. Only Yan Ting himself knew the truth.
The day of Yan Yan’s coming of age ceremony arrived very quickly.
Shen Yi Yao started arranging things two days prior.
Red silk was hung up in the courtyard where guests would be received, in the hall where the ceremony would be conducted and also where the banquet would be held afterwards. All the decorations were new.
Yan Yan was actually quite free. Apart from preparing the clothes and jewelry she would wear on the day, she just had to rest up and look her best.
In comparison to the main character, Yan Ru and Yan Ling were both a little more nervous. This was because their second aunt had told them they would help welcome the guests. They had never hosted such a large event before and inevitably felt apprehensive.
For the sake of her daughter’s dignity, Shen Yi Yao spent a lot of effort. The thousand taels from the public funds were naturally insufficient. She paid the rest using her own funds. Everything had to be absolutely perfect. Just deciding on the guest of honor and the witness required several revisions.
Shen Yi Yao had initially planned on having her second sis-in-law be the guest of honor. However, there were some criteria for this position. Usually it was best to have the parents, the parents-in-law, and the sons and daughters present. The whole family being there displayed their virtue.
Second Madam Shen fit the bill on everything with the exception of having a daughter.
Shen Yi Yao was very troubled. After thinking it over for several days, she was still worried about the daughter part. Therefore, she decided to have Ma Quan Fang be the guest of honor while Second Madam Shen would be the witness. Xue-shi would be officiating, which was essentially an assistant for the two of them.
But when she ran this by Yan Yan, she was rejected.
Yan Yan was set on having her second aunt be her guest of honor, even if she didn’t have both a son and a daughter. In her mind, only her second aunt was worthy of placing the hairpin in her hair that represented her coming of age.
This wasn’t to say Ma Quan Fang wasn’t good enough. It meant Second Madam Shen held a special place in her heart. There were far too many things between them that only Yan Yan understood.
Shen Yi Yao couldn’t overcome Yan Yan, and she also felt it would be hard to explain not having Second Madam Shen as the guest of honor. Thus, she permitted it.
After receiving the letter, Second Madam Shen was very startled.
Yan Yan coming of age wasn’t a small matter in the Zhenguo Duke Estate either. If it were possible to hold his granddaughter’s ceremony at the Zhenguo Duke Estate, the Zhenguo Duke really might have done so.
Second Madam Shen had been worried. She knew that she wasn’t qualified to be the guest of honor, and thought being the witness was also acceptable.
Of course, she couldn’t help but feel depressed.
Unexpectedly, she received the invitation to be the guest of honor. Second Madam Shen was both happy and unsettled. After asking the person who delivered the message, she found out Yan Yan insisted on it, and couldn’t help but be moved to tears.
Second Madam Shen had always been steady and controlled. She very rarely lost her composure. But Yan Yan was like a daughter to her. To be able to place the pin on her head was very significant.
The day of Yan Yan’s coming of age, the Weiyuan Marquis Estate was very lively.
There was an endless line of carriages in front of the gates. They belonged to the various madams who were invited.
The Zhenguo Duke’s entire household had arrived. This was the first time the Zhenguo Duke entered the Yan household’s gates. Even when the previous Weiyuan Marquis passed away, he had merely sent his son to pay tribute. This first time was for the sake of his granddaughter coming of age.
A coming of age ceremony was usually for the womenfolk, but it didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any men. As the father, Yan Ting had to be present. The Zhenguo Duke’s family, which included Yan Yan’s grandfather, uncle and cousin, were also qualified to participate.
The Zhenguo Duke arriving with his entire household attracted countless praises. They knew it was rare for him to make a personal appearance. Although the Zhenguo Duke’s household was domineering, they rarely interacted with others. When others hosted banquets, it was rare for them to be able to invite the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s men. At most, Second Madam Shen and the Zhenguo madam would go out and interact.
As the Zhenguo madam grew older, she also rarely left the estate. Therefore, Second Madam Shen was the only one who normally went out. If the Zhenguo Duke’s appearance startled everyone, the continuous bestowals from the palace that arrived afterwards made them all bewildered.
First came Emperor Xi’s bestowal. It was extremely ordinary: one box of jewels and two blessings of fortune. The people from the palace had just left when another bestowal arrived. This time it was a hairpin from Empress Xiao.
The hairpin was made of white jade carved into the character for longevity. The pin part formed the final stroke of the character. The craftsmanship was unique and exquisite.
As the nation’s mother figure, Empress Xiao bestowing a hairpin for Yan Yan’s coming of age ceremony was naturally something significant.
Yan Yan’s ceremony couldn’t be called the most magnificent event, but it was the most honored. Both the emperor and the empress had bestowed things. Even the nobility rarely saw such a thing.
Emperor Xi naturally did it for the Zhenguo Duke’s sake, raising his granddaughter’s reputation. However, Empress Xiao’s bestowal exceeded their expectations.
The ceremony was about to begin but something troublesome occurred.
Yan Ting had yet to appear. When this was reported, Shen Yi Yao burned in rage and ordered people to search all over.
She had been overwhelmed the last few days and rarely ran into Yan Ting. She only notified him two days in advance. Thinking that he wouldn’t be absent on such an important day, she didn’t think too much about it. Unexpectedly, this ended up happening.
Yan Ting was in the estate but had drank too much in his study the night before. He was fast asleep when the servants found him and looked very wretched. His face was full of stubble. They hurriedly woke him up and tidied up his appearance before he hurried over. Luckily, he managed to arrive before the auspicious hour.
When the hour arrived, Yan Yan’s ceremony began.
Accompanied by the chanted rites, Second Madam Shen personally gathered up Yan Yan’s black hair which draped behind her like silk. She inserted the white jade hairpin bestowed by the empress, representing the end of the ceremony.
Shen Yi Yao had prepared a hairpin, but since the empress had bestowed one, it was naturally better to use it.
“The one coming of age shall now pay respects to the officials and guests….”
Yan Yan solemnly paid respects and the crowd returned the salute.
The ceremony was concluded.
“The ceremony is complete. Will the parents please salute the witnesses present?”
Then, the crowd made its way towards the banquet.
The Zhenguo Duke didn’t remain long. He left after the ceremony along with Shen Ding, Shen Qi and the Zhenguo madam. The Zhenguo madam happened to have caught a cold and shouldn’t have gone out. However, it was her granddaughter’s big day so she endured her illness and came anyway.
Only Second Madam Shen stayed behind to help entertain the womenfolk.
Xue-shi had played a major role today. She had been officiating in front of the large crowd and felt extremely honored. On the other side, Yan Ru and Yan Ling was busy respectfully guiding the madams to their seats. There weren’t too many spots at the banquet, only around ten tables. However, those who could sit here were all madams of high status.
Yan Ru and Yan Ling’s relaxed manners received many appraising glances from the madams. The two of them were neither servile nor overbearing, and maintained dignified smiles. Chen-shi naturally wouldn’t miss this excellent opportunity and pushed the sixth and seventh misses out as well.
However, Yan Xia and Yan Juan had been raised into introverts by her and were scared of strangers. Their awkward appearance had the opposite effect. They made Yan Ru seem more elegant and dignified, and Yan Ling more cute and courteous.
After the banquet, many people asked Shen Yi Yao, Second Madam Shen and Ma Quan Fang about the two of them.
They found out these young girls were Yan Yan’s cousins and Shen Yi Yao’s nieces. Although they lamented that their father’s status wasn’t high, these madams still had many relatives with boys who were at the age to be married.
Ultimately, Yan Ru and Yan Ling’s appearance this time won them quite a few appraisals from the madams. It was clear there would be quite a few suitors coming to the door in the future.
As the main character of this event, Yan Yan was currently stunned at the sight of Luo Huai Yuan’s gift at the doors of the Ningxiang Chambers.
Someone from the modern world would be able to tell what it was right away. But the key was Yan Yan wasn’t from the modern world.
There was an enormous square table covered in pink flowers. They were truly countless, tender, beautiful and dazzling. The pink and soft luster was arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Even though Yan Yan had never been fond of these feminine things, she couldn’t help but be startled.
On top of the flowers was a small card. Inside were written several words:
It is said in the distant west, there is a type of flower called the rose. In the language of flowers, it represents love. Nine-hundred and ninety-nine roses represent limitless and eternal love. These flowers aren’t real, but they were made by skilled seamstresses out of silk, based on the descriptions I heard in the Fu Province. I believe little sis Ah Yan can definitely understand my feelings…..
Along with these flowers was a rectangular box.
Yan Yan opened it and saw a gold hairpin.
This golden hairpin was crafted into a curled grass pattern using golden threads. On top, the gold threads formed clouds in the shape of a ruyi symbol with a soaring phoenix within. The phoenix and clouds were made up of golden threads as thin as hair. In its beak was an extremely dazzling and eye-catching pink gem.
There was also a little note written in flamboyant script:
I’ve flattered the crown prince for so many days but that empress was way too stingy. She only gifted you a white jade hairpin. No matter. Your husband has money. I’ll buy something better. After marrying me, you can buy as many as you want. We’ll buy a dozen in one go, and stick them in your hair all at once!
Thinking of herself with many hairpins sticking out, Yan Yan couldn’t help but snort. However, her eyes were sparkling with tears.
Haha little fatty’s methods are too crude. However, it’s sufficient to deal with the girls in this time period.
Author: Ah Yan, I’m really not calling you crude. We can only say that fatty is too cunning!
Ah Yan: Mope. You guys definitely couldn’t tell I was moved. Definitely couldn’t!
Little fatty: (holding a handful of hairpins, imagine it looking like a bunch of chopsticks) Wifey, look, I’ve brought back a dozen….