When people got married, there would be “six rites” to observe: the matchmaking, the inquiry of name and birthdate, the small gift of fortune, the completion via betrothal gift, choosing the auspicious day and finally the wedding itself. Actually, these six rites really just involved three practical stages: discussing marriage, settling the marriage and then the wedding.
Discussing marriage involved choosing the partner, and was equivalent to the matchmaking and inquiry of name and birthdate. Settling the marriage involved establishing the wedding agreement between man and woman, and involved a minor gift and a betrothal gift. The wedding involved choosing an auspicious date and then going through the ceremony.
Since Yan Yan and the fourth prince’s marriage was ordained by Emperor Xi, they had no need to go through the matchmaking and name inquiry process. The edict was proclaimed while they were still at Mt. Meng. After returning to the capital, the imperial astronomer calculated the auspicious date long in advance. They merely waited for an auspicious time to have the internal affairs department and the Ministry of Rites go to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate to settle the matter.
Therefore, a few days after Yan Yan’s coming of age ceremony, the Ministry of Rites’ carriage brought over the consort’s robes, various jewelry, gold and silver, various silk and a few other pieces of the betrothal gift to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate.
Only now did Luo Huai Yuan finally relax.
He was familiar with the inefficiency of the internal affairs department. Those people always made things difficult for others. As long as those above didn’t give the order, they would drag things out. This was why he had lingered in the palace after returning from Mt. Meng instead of going back to his fourth prince estate.
Since the crown prince’s side had benefitted from their actions, empress had to take care of him for the sake of appearances. To settle his and the little consort’s marriage as soon as possible, he struck while the iron was hot and played the fool in front of the empress and the crown prince. He also “mustered up his courage” and asked to see the emperor regarding the matter of his marriage.
The people in the palace all assumed this was the first awakening of love. After being given a beautiful consort, he must have gotten obsessed with her. They mocked him secretly. Luo Huai Yuan pretended not to see this as he continuously made his presence known. This was the only reason the imperial astronomer, the internal affairs department and the Ministry of Rites moved so quickly.
The second prince’s wedding hadn’t even been put on the schedule yet, though that might be because he wasn’t in a rush. All Luo Huai Yuan knew was that he himself was in a huge rush.
Once the date was set, Luo Huai Yuan had a foolish smile as he went to thank the Empress, and then went to kowtow to the emperor. Then, he happily left the palace and returned to his fourth prince estate.
The crown prince laughed and scolded him in front of Empress Xiao, “This old fourth is really a profiteer. What a foolish appearance. A mere woman is enough to keep him satisfied.”
Empress Xiao had a dignified smile. “Isn’t this good? We won’t have to worry about this sort of person.”
“That’s also true!” As he spoke, the crown prince then recalled the people they did have to worry about.
Princes had standards for their engagement and marriage. Apart from the crown prince who was a level higher, the rest of the princes were all the same. Since Emperor Xi had always emphasized dignity and the fourth prince only had his woman in his eyes, the betrothal gift hadn’t been cut down at all. The internal affairs department didn’t even swap in inferior goods like they usually did.
It was clear that Luo Huai Yuan making his presence known around the palace had been effective. His “first awakening of love” had left a deep impression on everyone.
The internal affairs department had indeed wanted to embezzle some things, but was scared that foolish fourth prince would make a fuss after finding out. After all, his heart was full of that future consort. He had even asked what was being sent over, and wanted to see it with his own eyes. Since this prince didn’t even care about his dignity anymore, who would dare do anything?
Everyone in the palace now thought the fourth prince was a joke, saying that he had become obsessed with his future consort to the point where he no longer cared about his dignity. The empress and the crown prince seemed to be indulging him and Senior Concubine Xu’s side was unusually low-key. Emperor Xi didn’t say anything so everyone just took it as entertainment.
No one realized that as the Ministry of Rites sent the betrothal gift over to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, Luo Huai Yuan had secretly sent his own gift to Yan Yan.
When Shen Yi Yao found out these things were personally and secretly sent over by the fourth prince himself, she couldn’t help but say “Yuan’er that child is really attentive”.
The boxes weren’t opened, and were sent over along with the listing to the Ningxiang Chambers. Just by looking at the thick listing of gifts, it was clear how much effort he had put into it.
These years Luo Huai Yuan had earned quite a bit of money. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say he was raking it in.
For the sake of raising his little consort’s reputation and to make her happy, or perhaps to express his own feelings, Luo Huai Yuan really grabbed whatever he felt was good. There were things from the palace and things that weren’t from the palace. Everything was put into ten large boxes and sent over. These included various silk, cloth, spices, gems, pearls, ivory sculptures and other rarities.
Mei Xue clicked her tongue in wonder. She exclaimed how it seemed like their future in-law was planning on providing their miss’s dowry for her!
Luo Huai Yuan was truly thinking of doing this, but he didn’t dare say it out loud. His future mother-in-law was also a rich one. He wouldn’t be so tactless as to take away this right from her.
This large commotion was also noticed by the old madam and Chen-shi. They assumed that all the consorts would enjoy such treatment. Their jealousy and envy naturally didn’t need to be mentioned.
When the old madam heard the servants say that the Jinse Pavilion was filled with betrothal gifts and bestowals, her innards itched for several days. She wanted to seize everything before she could feel comfortable again. She also resented Shen Yi Yao for getting so many benefits, and still remembered how she had been pressured due to the coming of age ceremony. Her emotions were complicated and torturous.
Even the servants had their horizons expanded, saying how marrying into the royal family was different and extraordinary after all. They enthusiastically discussed things for several days before their passion gradually subsided.
It was at this moment that the Pei household’s old madam came to the doors.
Actually the Pei household’s background wasn’t too impressive. Several generations ago, they were only wealthy landowners in the countryside.
Putting it nicely, they were a household who studied while working the land. In reality, within the past three generations they only had two people who managed to pass the county-level exam. It was only in Pei Nan’s generation when their ancestor’s tombs seemed to be giving off green smoke. They ended up raising the innately intelligent Pei Nan.
Pei Nan managed to pass each level of exam in succession, and in the end even managed to enter the prestigious Hanlin Academy. The Pei household became wealthy and honored in an instant.
After serving out his three-year stint in the Hanlin Academy, Pei Nan was assigned to the Ministry of Rites. He was given a fifth-ranked official’s position. After stabilizing his footing in the capital, Pei Nan sent someone to bring his parents and younger sister over from the countryside.
That sister was the old madam.
Back then, she was still known as Pei Miao Ling. When she entered the capital, she was already sixteen. The reason she delayed getting marriage was because she wanted to find a good marriage in the capital. Her parents felt that with their son’s prospects and high rank, their daughter would definitely find a good marriage.
Unfortunately, a mere fifth-ranked official wasn’t that outstanding within the capital. Luckily, Pei Nan was good at networking and was also rather good at currying favors. He managed to find a pretty good marriage for his sister. Both the identity and status of that household was more than enough for the Pei household. The only downside was that the groom was a sickly one. However, they realized that didn’t really affect their Pei household. Therefore, the old madam ended up marrying the old marquis, who passed away early.
Pei Nan was extremely satisfied at his sister for marrying into a marquis’s estate. If it weren’t for him marrying too early back then, he also would have wanted to find a noblewoman of high status to marry.
The Pei household’s old madam was a talented woman. When she married Pei Nan, he was still bitterly studying. After he ascended, she rose up along with him despite it being inevitable that a successful man would take in a few concubines. To be able to become a high-ranked official’s madam was something the Pei old madam hadn’t dared imagine before. Therefore, she was willing to turn a blind eye to her husband’s typical male behavior.
The outcome proved that she had made the correct decision in choosing Pei Nan back then. She tagged along the whole way as he made his way up to the major second-ranked position of Assistant Minister. If it weren’t for his crime, she would have lived a pretty good life. Unfortunately, things didn’t last until the end.
The Pei old madam who had maintained herself pretty well initially seemed to have age a decade after Pei Nan was fired and exiled. The continuous issues that popped up afterwards also aged her a lot. Whenever the old madam saw this sister-in-law of hers, she would be startled at how much she deteriorated. She naturally didn’t realize that in the Pei old madam’s eyes, she was the same way.
The Pei old madam had come this time to beg for help. She truly didn’t expect her two daughters-in-law to be so stupid. They actually started a fight and ended up revealing something they shouldn’t have.
Because of this, the capital was boiling over.
The emperor was furious and High Official Wu had been arrested by the department of justice. The various movements in the capital made her tremble with fear and kept her awake at night. She was truly unable to sit still anymore and remembered this sister-in-law of hers.
Since her sister-in-law’s granddaughter was a consort, she felt that if anything happened to the Pei household, they would be able to help.
The Pei old madam didn’t beat around the bush and explained why she had come.
The old madam laughed after listening. “How are you still so shortsighted after so many decades? This is a good thing. My older brother will probably be able to clear his name now and return to his previous post.”
The Pei household had these thoughts previously. It was also partially the reason why they ended up blabbing this time around. However, the Pei old madam had different thoughts, and felt things weren’t so simple. But if you asked her why it wasn’t, she wouldn’t be able to say. Seeing that several people had been locked up in the past couple of days due to this matter, she had worriedly come to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate.
The Pei old madam was still filled with worry.
The old madam patted her hand and said: “Since this matter was caused by an argument between women, you should properly manage your daughters-in-law after getting back. As for the rest, let’s wait and see what happens. Regardless, you should just put on an appearance of being wronged and not be afraid. Now that everyone’s watching them, the Wu household won’t dare to do anything to you.”
Although this was the case, many things truly weren’t as simple as these women made it out to be.
A few days later, the Pei old madam came by again, crying as though her father had passed. She said Pei Nan had suddenly died during his exile.
This was truly the heavens collapsing. Pei Nan had always been the pillar for the Pei household. Even though he was exiled, he had still found some means of protection for the Pei household.
Now that protection was gone because of some minor matters between the younger generation. Not only that, even High Official Wu was pulled off his horse. If ratting him out would clear his name, Pei Nan would have done so to begin with. There was no need to wait until now.
Perhaps he knew that he wouldn’t be able to make a comeback, or perhaps he feared the complicated relationships behind High Official Wu. Pei Nan had spat out blood in anger, and a few days later the news was sent back that he had suddenly died.
The old madam fainted on the spot. The Rongan Hall’s maids were frightened as they fed her medicine and called for a doctor.
By the time the old madam awoke, half her body had become numb and rigid. It wasn’t to the point where she was unable to move, but she moved very slowly. She couldn’t even lift a spoon.
Yan Ting lost his temper and heaped a torrent of abuse towards the Pei old madam.
The old madam said inarticulately: “Your aunt was also panicked. Oh, my poor older brother…..” After speaking, she started crying.
Her daughters-in-law had all come and they watched the old madam crying inconsolably. Matron Zhao, Yan Ting and the Pei old madam had surrounded the bed and the others weren’t able to get close anyway.
The doctor had finished his diagnosis and left to prescribe medicine. He said this sort of illness could only be treated with proper rest. She must avoid excessive stimulation at any cost in case she gets worse.
The old madam braced her frail body as she mumbled incoherently at Yan Ting, asking him to help his uncle’s family. She wanted to see if they could bring Pei Nan’s corpse back to the capital. She didn’t want to have her brother die without a proper funeral. The Pei old madam had also come for this reason.
After Pei Nan was exiled, the Pei household had no other connections to use. As of now, they could only rely on this nephew of theirs.
Yan Ting was silent for a while before agreeing.
With their mother-in-law bedridden, the sons and the daughters-in-law naturally had to take care of her.
The men all had jobs so this was left to the women. Shen Yi Yao only came and visited the old madam once, ordering servants to send some medical ingredients over before never showing up again. Xue-shi and Chen-shi were left to take care of her.
These days, Chen-shi was rather guarded against Xue-shi. Although taking care of a sick person was hard work, the household’s income depended on the old madam. It seemed like she wouldn’t be getting better any time soon, so the income needed to be handled by someone. Since Chen-shi managed the household, it would naturally be great if she could also take over the income.
Xue-shi naturally knew what Chen-shi was thinking, but she pretended to be unaware. She even acted especially attentive to the old madam, making her seem like an eyesore to Chen-shi. This person who usually acted well-behaved in front of Xue-shi and Shen Yi Yao couldn’t help but get into a few arguments with Xue-shi.
This won’t be mentioned for now. It wasn’t clear what connections Yan Ting used, but Pei Nan’s corpse was permitted to be brought back to the capital. They would hold the funeral service here before the coffin was brought back to his hometown.
However, this matter didn’t seem to have ended yet.
Yan Yan’s wedding was set for early October of next year. This was the auspicious day calculated by the imperial astronomer.
This meant that within a year, Yan Yan would be married off. The timing seemed a little rushed but it wasn’t a big deal. A year was sufficient for Shen Yi Yao to prepare her daughter’s dowry.
Major households usually started building up their daughters’ dowries from birth. By the time they got married, there would be a good amount saved up. They wouldn’t have to feel rushed if they had to prepare a few things prior to marriage.
For example, construction of the furniture included in Yan Yan’s dowry had been started two years ago. The wood was the highest quality red sandalwood and rosewood. Therefore, it was dignified enough for even a consort’s dowry.
Shen Yi Yao included both small and large things. The smallest was a stool and the largest was a palanquin bed. There was quite a lot of wood left over to be taken to the fourth prince estate’s bridal chamber and filled up after measuring.
The fourth prince resident’s main courtyard had been empty this whole time. Luo Huai Yuan normally lived in a small courtyard behind the main one. This courtyard was unnamed, and was built by the Ministry of Labor back then. Luo Huai Yuan had slowly filled it up over the past few years and slowly modified it. Now, it was magnificent and also seemed brand new.
This was the bridal chamber he prepared for himself and his little consort. He had started preparations several years in advance.
Shen Yi Yao sent someone over for the measurements and said the bridal chamber was very large. The remaining wood didn’t seem to be enough. Shen Yi Yao had the carpenter get started first and ordered for additional wood to be purchased.
Ever since Luo Huai Yuan gifted Yan Yan a bunch of silk roses at her coming of age ceremony, he continued to send some over every day. Sometimes it would be just a single one. According to him, it represented that she was in his heart. Sometimes it would be three, which meant he liked her a lot. Regardless, what was written on those little cards were all provocative and hot confessions.
Yan Yan never let anyone see these little cards. She kept them all in the small box where she put all his letters. Over the years, the two of them exchanged more and more letters and the previous small box was already filled up. That one was stuffed under Yan Yan’s bed.
Mei Xiang’s group expressed a lot of curiosity. The fourth prince sent strange flowers over and the miss’s expression would turn very weird. What kind of weird? The kind that made them burn to know what was written on those cards.
However, Yan Yan was very careful. The boxes were all locked up. Even if they weren’t locked, the maids wouldn’t dare look inside by themselves after seeing their miss’s appearance.
The cards could be hidden but not the flowers. Especially since these flowers weren’t real flowers, and weren’t in danger of wilting. Gradually, the Ningxiang Chambers was filled up with various roses. There were red ones, pink ones, violet ones, yellow ones. It was essentially becoming a sea of flowers.
At first, Yan Yan was embarrassed to tell people they were sent by Luo Huai Yuan. Yan Ru and Yan Ling would always come over, and they naturally noticed the flowers. The two had asked about them but Yan Yan would always change the topic. After the flowers started accumulating, the two of them were quite fond of them and couldn’t help but ask Yan Yan if they could bring a few back.
Yan Yan was put in a difficult spot. In the end, it was Mei Xue who helped with the matter. She laughed and said these flowers couldn’t be given away since they were gifted by their miss’s future husband.
Yan Yan’s face turned red in a rare display. Yan Ru and Yan Ling looked at her teasingly.
Girls their age didn’t have much experience in love. Seeing the fourth prince treating Yan Yan so well, they couldn’t help but feel a little envious. They even wondered if they would get such treatment after their marriage was settled.
At the same time, the Pei household had become even more chaotic.
The Pei household’s eldest lord had just returned with his eldest son from settling the coffin when several matters popped up. The fact that the Pei household’s third branch’s third lord had borrowed a large sum of money for gambling spread throughout the capital. The second branch made a fuss about wanting to leave the household. The Wu household formally declared that they were getting rid of Pei Jia Yi due to their falling out.
The Pei household was a mess. During this time, there were a few instances of weird break-ins.
These break-ins were very strange. Nothing was stolen, but several places were turned upside down as though they were searching for something.
The Pei household knew this must have something to do with Pei Nan’s previous deeds. However, he had never told them anything and they had no idea what these people wanted. For the sake of getting this to stop, they could only turn a blind eye and let them flip through their house.
After a few times, this matter stopped. However, a few days later, someone sent over a box. Inside was a decapitated cat.
The Pei household could no longer remain still!
They had already become a stray dog without any options. They could only shamelessly beg the old madam for help.
The old madam was still bedridden, and had trouble even standing up. She needed someone to help her with eating and drinking, and couldn’t even speak properly. Hearing these things, there wasn’t much she could do except worry helplessly. She could only call her capable son over and ask him to investigate and see who the Pei household had offended.
Considering the Wu household’s current situation, it definitely couldn’t be them. There was definitely someone else involved.
Actually, in handling the matter last time, Yan Ting had vaguely figured out who was behind these matters. Since bringing Pei Nan back for a funeral wasn’t a big deal, no one had made things difficult for him and the person didn’t get involved.
Seeing the current situation, Pei Nan must have hidden something disadvantageous to those people. How could he have the authority to get them to stop?
Although the old madam was ill, she wasn’t muddled. She could tell from her son’s expression that this matter was hard to handle.
However, the Pei household was her roots after all. Her parents had passed away and she only had this one older brother. Now that her brother was dead, the Pei household only had a few nephews that shared her bloodline. How could she ignore their plight? She could only pretend she didn’t notice her son’s troubles.
After Yan Ting left, she muttered to herself for a while before asking someone to bring Shen Yi Yao over.
At this point, the old madam no longer cared about her dignity. Since she had a daughter-in-law with an impressive background, she would be a fool not to use her.
She was eager to have her daughter-in-law take care of this to avoid tiring out her son.
The Pei old madam’s arrival was naturally noticed by Yan Yan. Hearing the Rongan Hall calling for her mom, she went over along with Shen Yi Yao.
The old madam’s expression wasn’t good when she saw Yan Yan. The Pei old madam however seemed as if she saw a lifeline. She fell just short of kneeling in front of them. It was only avoided because Matron Zhao held her back with all her strength.
“Sis-in-law is still the capable one, raising a capable son who married a good daughter-in-law. Now, even your granddaughter has become the daughter-in-law of the royal family.”
Back then, the Pei old madam often mocked her younger sister-in-law secretly for being spoiled, and for marrying a sickly husband who died early.
Now, she was wholeheartedly flattering the old madam. Unfortunately, while the first part was pleasing to her ears, the second part was not. Instead, it stabbed at her sore spot. The only reason she didn’t flip out was because they were asking for help.
Minor spoiler in author’s notes.
Hehe, don’t worry, Shen Yi Yao won’t bother with them.