This was Xue-shi’s first time ridiculing Yan Zhi like this. He was already extremely angry, and after being stimulated he became even more furious.
He went to Concubine Wang’s room and let loose.
Concubine Wang was timid to begin with. She was paralyzed on the floor in fear and couldn’t speak.
Yan Zhi had intended on ruthlessly punishing Concubine Wang. However, for the sake of Yan Ling whose marriage was settled, he merely gave the orders for her to be confined. Before Yan Ling got married, Concubine Wang wasn’t allowed to go out. She was also forbidden to see the Wang family anymore. Furthermore, people were sent to warn the Wang family that if they spoke any more nonsense, their legs would be broken and they would be sold off!
When Yan Ling found out about this, things were already boiling over.
Yan Ling’s face was white as paper and she had no idea what to say. She had finally turned things around with a lot of effort, and now this ended up happening. She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry.
When she went to Concubine Wang’s room, Concubine Wang was crying in front of the bed. Seeing Yan Ling come in, she started crying even harder.
Yan Ling looked at her wearily and wished she could also have a good cry.
“Do you not want me to be happy? Can’t you settle down for a bit? If you wanted to hop around, you should have done so early on. Why are you doing so now?”
“Do you feel that because the miss you raised is about to be well off, and is about to marry, you can feel superior to others and show off your might? How have you lived so long without understanding things? Are you really unable to see things clearly or what?” Yan Ling’s voice grew louder as she spoke. She was even hysterical. “The reason we can sit here safely, and the reason you can be smug about my marriage to the Qingan Count Estate, is not because how good I am. It’s because the principal wife’s heart isn’t rotten, get it!?”
“I saw that Xue-shi didn’t seem to be planning anything for you at all, which is why….”
“Why should she plan anything for me?” Yan Ling wiped her tears and said coldly.
“She’s your principal mother.”
“Oh, she’s my principal mother? You’re my biological mother, and I’ve called you mom for over a decade. What have you planned for me?”
Concubine Wang’s face abruptly paled. She stammered but wasn’t able to say anything.
“I’m asking you a question! As my biological mother, what plans did you make for your biological daughter?”
Yan Ling laughed coldly, “All these years, didn’t you give all your money to the Wang family? Have you even thought to plan ahead for this daughter of yours? Even a single needle or thread? Of course not. You don’t have surplus money, and even used my money for that family!”
Concubine Wang gasped and started crying mournfully. “How could I not have wanted to plan ahead for you? But your concubine mom’s status is lowly and cannot compare to the madam. What can I do? I couldn’t just let my family starve. If I had as much money as the madam, it wouldn’t be like this….the madam has so much money, it isn’t a big deal to give us a little more. She’s your principal mother. She’s supposed to provide this dowry in the first place….”
“That’s right, everything you said is correct! Everything you said is reasonable! However…..” Yan Ling’s face was filled with sorrow, her voice suddenly growing shrill, “Do you think everyone under the heavens owes you? No one owes you anything! The reason she isn’t good to you is because you did something you shouldn’t have done. She isn’t good to me because of the filthy thing you did, making me an eyesore! No one forced you to climb into dad’s bed. Since you did so, you should take responsibility for the consequences.”
Concubine Wang’s face was pale as a ghost, her lips trembling. She didn’t think her daughter actually knew what she had done in the past. However…
“I didn’t do anything wrong. What did I do wrong?” She started crying again, her voice full of grievance. “Things were so hard back home and they all depended on my meager salary as a maid. Do you think your mom is so cheap and wanted to depend on someone’s favor to earn a living? But your uncle needed silver to get married, what else could I do?!”
So there was this matter as well?! Was this to say she was rather pitiful? But who should she complain to!?
“That’s not my uncle. Don’t forgot, my uncle’s household is the Xue household!” Yan Ling said cruelly.
In the past she had been worried that Concubine Wang wouldn’t be able to take it if she said this out loud. But reality had proven that one had to be cruel when it was necessary. Otherwise, the two of them would end up dead without a proper burial.
“Father already scolded you and you still haven’t kept it in mind.” Yan Ling’s voice was steady, and she was scarily calm. “Father said if you or the Wang family continue to try and profit off of family ties, they will have their legs broken and sold off!”
“You….” Concubine Wang was shocked and in disbelief. “How can you be so heartless? That’s my biological brother, and your uncle….”
“Concubine mom, you seem to have forgotten. As a concubine, you don’t even count as half a master. How could your brother become my uncle? Concubine mom, it’s better if you realize your status.”
Forget it, forget it. She couldn’t convince her anyway. To avoid any future calamities and for the sake of leaving herself a place in this household after her marriage, she might as well personally crush these thoughts of hers.
Yan Ling realized the Concubine Wang of the past was better. Although she was a little too timid, it meant she wouldn’t cause any problems. It was best for people to know their place. Often times, when they forgot, what awaited might be eternal damnation.
Concubine Wang couldn’t endure this blow and cried incessantly.
Yan Ling let out a deep sigh full of endless exhaustion.
“Why don’t you understand? You’ve been an eyesore for so many years. The reason you could continue to stay here was because you were obedient in the past. Even if you get your way this time, have you thought about the future? After I marry off, aren’t you still in this household? You’ve already said the principal mother isn’t simple. After I’m gone, do you think you’re enough to fill her teeth with?”
Concubine Wang’s heart dropped. Yan Ling had already walked out.
It wasn’t clear if Concubine Wang had taken her words to heart. Regardless, she had finally quietened down. She was no longer as ostentatious, and returned to her past self. Actually, Yan Ling’s heart ached at seeing such a Concubine Wang. But there was no choice. The world was harsh. A single mistake can be hard to rectify for life. She could only hope her life at her husband’s household would be good in the future. Then, her concubine mom would also be without worry.
The precocious Yan Ling had yet to turn fifteen, but was already making plans to be a good wife and daughter-in-law. The world was filled with such helplessness, but life still had to go on.
Such helplessness was naturally something Yan Yan hadn’t experienced. She was never able to swallow her anger or endure any grievance. If anyone angered her, she would poke a hole through the heavens.
But even if she hadn’t experienced it before, it didn’t mean she couldn’t see it.
Because she saw and understood it, her emotions were very complicated. She was naturally grateful for what she had.
Compared to others, she had it extremely well. Although Yan Ting was like ants in the bone and couldn’t be waved off, ever since Mt. Meng he rarely appeared in front of her and her mom. Everything from before seemed to vanish like smoke. As of now, she had her mom to love, that cute brother of hers and also that very annoying person.
Every time she thought of Luo Huai Yuan, Yan Yan really wanted to laugh but was also helpless. But this sort of helplessness contained a trace of sweetness.
Luo Huai Yuan didn’t forget his aspirations. Even though Yan Yan had already accepted him that day, he still continued to make his presence known daily.
He would send flowers one day, some snacks the next and then some trinkets the day after that. Regardless, he had something new every day, and the gifts were never repeated. The servants in the Ningxiang Chambers had gotten used to it already. Every morning they would send someone to the gatehouse to pick up a package. This was because their miss wouldn’t feel at ease unless the package was brought back.
At some point, Luo Huai Yuan had actually gotten Yan Yan into this habit. It had to be said he was very good at influencing people. As the saying goes, as long as enough effort was spent, a pestle could be ground into a needle.
But on this day, Luo Huai Yuan’s habit was suddenly interrupted.
Seeing Mei Xiang come back empty handed, Yan Yan subconsciously frowned.
Seemingly trying to cover up her emotions, she said: “Perhaps it was delayed.” She didn’t realize that these words completely revealed her feelings.
Luo Huai Yuan was truly delayed by something to the extent he had forgotten to have Xiao An Zi send the thing over.
Xiao An Zi had noticed his highness’s expression wasn’t right and didn’t dare disturb him. He took the initiative to send the thing his highness had set aside for Miss Yan yesterday over.
Luo Huai Yuan fiddled with the piece of folded paper in his hands and spaced out for a long time.
Over the years he had slowly established his own information network. No matter when or where, information was the most important thing. Being able to get information quickly would mean a strategic advantage.
During the Lantern Festival, Luo Huai Yuan happened to see the manner of Yan Ting and Xu Xiang Rong’s interactions. He grew suspicious and had his people secretly investigate.
This investigation took over a month, but the information obtained was extremely complete. It included when Yan Ting and Xu Xiang Rong got to know each other, their interactions during this time and even what was going on recently.
Of course the inside story wasn’t possible to obtain. For example, when they went into a residence, no one knew who they met and what they did inside. However, their daily actions would leave traces. Perhaps others might say these things weren’t useful at all. However, for Luo Huai Yuan, it could be used in many places.
There were truly many. Yan Ting had always been showing up at a residence recently. Luo Huai Yuan ordered his people to look inside. This task was extremely difficult. That residence was guarded very tightly and they had almost been discovered several times. However, the final result gave Luo Huai Yuan the information he wasn’t too surprised by: turns out the two were really having an affair!
Could his eyes really have the ability to discover “corruption”?
Because of this thought, Luo Huai Yuan had examined himself in the mirror for a while. The more he looked, the more he felt his eyes were truly very bright.
This won’t be mentioned for now. What came after was to choose whether to say it or not.
No matter how strong Luo Huai Yuan thought his little consort was, he still didn’t think she could accept something like this. This matter also involved his mother-in-law!
This damn Yan Ting. Could it be that he saw the Zhenguo Duke was a lost cause and decided to hug onto Xu Xiang Rong’s legs? He was truly open minded, having gotten into a woman’s good books first, and now turning his thoughts onto a man for his prospects. He was truly emotionless!
It had to be said Luo Huai Yuan had missed the mark here.
While Luo Huai Yuan was guessing at Yan Ting’s thoughts with revulsion, a servant reported that Shen Qi had come. It seemed that something was up.
Hearing this, Luo Huai Yuan hurriedly put the folded piece of paper away and rushed over to meet Shen Qi.
It turned out that Shen Qi was here to say farewell. The Zhenguo Duke had long since planned to have Shen Qi leave the capital after the New Year. Because Second Madam Shen was reluctant to part, things kept dragging on so Shen Qi hadn’t told Luo Huai Yuan.
Once it was finally settled, he hurried over to the Fourth Prince Estate.
Luo Huai Yuan had already heard about this before because Shen Qi had told him once. Yet he didn’t expect it would happen so soon.
The Shen household was planning to have Shen Qi go to the Pingsha Pass. Shen Qi had always been interested in enlisting in the army and his uncle Shen Dong was there to take care of him as well. It goes without saying that Shen Qi would be placed in a very low rank like his cousins when he got there. Perhaps he would only be able to stand out when given the opportunity, like Shen Xuan. Otherwise, he might have to wait for those above to retire.
This sort of enlistment was different from what Shen Qi had imagined before. Due to his cousins being examples, Shen Qi even felt some rejection towards this arrangement. However, he also knew he had to leave the capital.
Seeing Shen Qi looking depressed, Luo Huai Yuan’s eyes flickered and he spoke up: “Then don’t go to the Pingsha Pass. Go to the Fu Province.”
“That’s right. Your cousin Shen Xuan is there. The Fu Province is lively and there are a lot of people. It’s better than the Pingsha Pass where even birds don’t shit. Since you’re muddling away the days anyway, might as well find some amusement for yourself. Big bro Shen is in charge of the Fujian Navy there, and has a whole lot of ships. Have you seen the ocean before? Have you seen foreigners? Do you know how large and wide the ocean is? There are types of fish in the ocean that are as large as ships. Those fish can even blow water from their backs….”
How could Shen Qi this child be a match for Luo Huai Yuan when he started shooting his mouth off? It only took a little bit before he was convinced.
“Is it really as fun as you say?”
Luo Huai Yuan patted his shoulder. “When has your big bro ever lied to you?! If you go, you’ll definitely expand your horizons! I have quite a few businesses there. If you don’t want to enter your cousin’s navy, you can help with my businesses. Regardless, you won’t be lacking in things to do!”
After Luo Huai Yuan’s persuasion, Shen Qi hurriedly went back to the Zhenguo Duke Estate.
Only after Shen Qi left did Luo Huai Yuan remember there was something he hadn’t done today. When he returned and saw Xiao An Zi, he hurriedly asked about it. Only after hearing Xiao An Zi say he had already made the arrangements did he relax.
But should he tell his little consort about that matter or not?
At the same time over at the Pingsha Pass, preparations for battle were being made.
Every time during the autumn and winter seasons, the northern tribes would invade. This was because the tribes lived a nomadic lifestyle on the plains. They would find it hard to survive when encountering harsh weather, and could only rely on plundering to live.
The weather this year was especially strange. There was a lot of rain, and not only did the Grand Xi suffer from this, the tribes were also affected.
Therefore, ever since the autumn, the tribes had repeatedly invaded. They had already fought two battles with them.
The Zhenguo Duke’s bloodline was able to suppress the northern tribes for so long partly due to their strength and the Pingsha Pass acting as a natural barrier, but also because the Grand Xi had enacted an embargo against the tribes.
Not only did the Grand Xi prevent trading with the tribes, they also prohibited the exchange of certain goods such as gold and silver, cloth, porcelain, metal, salt, sugar and so on.
As a nomadic people, the tribes didn’t have metal forging skills or salt mines. They also couldn’t make porcelain and other crafted things.
Without cloth they could use fur pelts, but they couldn’t live without salt. Metal tools, knives, spears, arrowheads and even pots used by commoners were also extremely rare items for the northern tribes. Therefore, whenever they plundered, pots and metal tools were high value targets.
After so many years of embargo, the living conditions of the tribes were extremely poor. This also resulted in their vicious nature. Apart from going against the Grand Xi, they also plundered the Western Regions as well as Russia behind them. Otherwise, the tribes would have long since become extinct.
With an embargo naturally came those who violated it.
Merchants had always followed profits. When the court enacted the embargo, there were still quite a few people who took the risk to trade with them. This was because the tribes had horses and fur pelts that were extremely popular in the Grand Xi. Therefore, apart from repelling invaders, the soldiers at the pass also had to strike at smugglers.
Some of these smugglers were commoners. Don’t be doubtful. These commoners were poor. In the Grand Xi, a normal pot could be bought for around a hundred coins. However, it could be sold to the tribes for several taels, or even tens of taels. With such huge profits, the commoners were willing to trade even if it meant risking their lives.
There were also merchants who engaged in this business despite being struck at repeatedly. The Pingsha Pass had the authority to immediately behead smugglers who were caught, but it was still not enough to prevent it from happening.
There was one group called the “Broad Justice Band” that was the most rampant.
Why were they described as rampant?
This was because over the years, the soldiers had caught countless caravans from the “Broad Justice Band”, but they continued to show up. They even became more and more secretive, giving the soldiers quite the headache.
Shen Dong hated this “Broad Justice Band” to his bones, but could never catch any traces of them. Every time they caught the caravans, they would only find out they were employed by the “Broad Justice Band”, but could get nothing else out of them.
As the saying goes, walking constantly by the river would eventually result in wet shoes.
Due to the importance of this time’s exchange, the “Broad Justice Band’s” big boss was personally making an appearance.
For the sake of his safety, he had even had a bunch of body doubles run around. But since Shen Dong was able to guard the pass for so long and keep the tribes suppressed, his reputation wasn’t just for show. He was able to tell something was up from the “Broad Justice Band’s” suspicious actions and ended up capturing this boss.
Screwing yourself over by being too smart referred to precisely this.
The boss had thought himself an expert strategist and had tangled with the soldiers at the pass for a long time. The reason he sent many people posing as him was to confuse the troops so he could take advantage of the chaos. He scarcely realized that these actions just showed his lack of confidence and even fear. Shen Dong had long since heard of him, so how could he let his efforts go to waste? He summoned his people and caught them all in one go.
Who cares who was fake and who was real? If they pulled them all into the net, one of them was bound to be the real one!
After a round of identifying, the so called “big boss” was finally uncovered.
This “big boss” was an ordinary looking person in his forties, the type that couldn’t be picked out from a crowd.
His subordinates actually didn’t give him up. This was because he remained secretive and few of them knew what he looked like. It was only after Shen Dong saw this matter was going nowhere and ordered them all beheaded that the big boss jumped out by himself.
Shen Dong’s people were worried this was someone scapegoating himself and interrogated him thoroughly. After seeing that his words matched up with many things and had some substance behind them, they finally believed him.
Since the big boss stepped out, he was naturally not seeking death. After the soldiers confirmed his identity, he asked to meet with Shen Dong.
Shen Dong didn’t like to interact with this sort of person.
In his heart, all those who betrayed the country should be beheaded. If they killed each one they caught, these people would be eradicated someday. Furthermore, these people were crafty and it was best to avoid talking with them in case they were scheming something.
Shen Dong ordered for him to be directly dragged out and beheaded but the big boss actually spoke a name: Yan Ting!
Shen Dong’s heart thumped.
There were many people who knew Yan Ting’s name at the pass because he had dropped into a commanding role out of the blue. Many people were against his sudden appearance back then. Shen Dong’s subordinates were loyal, and they hated Yan Ting for tarnishing their general’s reputation.
When Yan Ting was inserted back then, many people secretly shunned him. Seeing the general not prevent them from doing so, they understood even more clearly. This was also one reason why Yan Ting detested the Shen household bitterly.
Yan Ting didn’t realize that it was always like this in the army. Everyone climbed up step by step through knives, spears and arrows. They cared most about valor and experience. There were never people who benefitted without working for it.
It wasn’t like there weren’t people who were given a fast pass before, but those people never lasted long and could never get the people on their side. Even if they returned with meritorious service, who would really buy it?
Why could the Zhenguo Duke’s bloodline be held in such high regard?
This was because the Shen household had built up their reputation through blade and spear over the years!
This sort of prestige was an intangible asset. Even if it wasn’t visible, it was still there.
When Emperor Xi first ascended back then, the capital had been heavily guarded. Rumors were floating around that the crown prince had rebelled and caused the previous emperor’s death. With a single order from the Zhenguo Duke, his subordinates marched under his banner and entered the capital. No one wondered whether the Zhenguo Duke was rebelling. Perhaps some did wonder, but they still followed behind him.
This was prestige!
Shen Dong viewed Yan Ting as his brother-in-law and had planned things out for him. However, he also wanted him to understand the intricacies behind this, and use his own abilities to rise up. With Shen Dong secretly helping him, it wasn’t that hard for him to do so. Only this way would any meritorious achievements he earned be stable.
Unfortunately Yan Ting hadn’t understood his efforts, and had even resented the Shen household, thinking they were purposely suppressing him. He was also impatient for meritorious achievements, and thus ended up causing an all-encompassing calamity.
Time to screw over the dad…..