Chapter 116

Translator’s notes:

Received a paypal donation that I’m assuming is from a dear reader in Singapore. Thank you for the tip, Christiine!

***

Xiao An Zi walked in with a tray.

There were two teacups as well as some fruits and snacks. Seeing the frozen atmosphere, he didn’t dare make a sound. He placed the tray by the bed and left.

The room was extremely silent.

Luo Huai Yuan furrowed his brows and racked his brains bitterly.

This was the first time Yan Yan saw him so serious. Normally he looked so nonchalant that he would probably be fine even if the heavens collapsed.

His usual expression was never earnest. Perhaps everyone assumed he was someone unreliable when they first met him. Only those who knew him well understood just how many earnest things he had done despite that expression of his.

Yan Yan looked at the face across from her. Under the yellow light, that face wasn’t handsome, and was even a little hard to look at. However, Yan Yan’s eyes were misty.

She held her teacup in her hands, wanting to borrow the little bit of heat to warm her hands.

She was used to being tough, but thinking of what she had to do, she couldn’t help but feel a trace of fear. No one could remain calm in the face of death. She wasn’t even sixteen after all.

These actions startled Luo Huai Yuan awake. He looked at the pitiful little person who was curled up in a bundle. It was like an illusion that passed in an instant. She was still herself.

Luo Huai Yuan felt some heartache but didn’t dare reveal it on his face. He took the teacup from her hands and placed it on the table.

“Are you cold? How about you sleep a little first? You rest here. I’ll go to the study.”

“I should go back. Otherwise, Mei Xiang and the rest will make a ruckus if they discover I’m gone.”

Luo Huai Yuan froze, his smile becoming splendid and shameless.

“Are you underestimating me? Your husband will definitely come up with a suitable plan. To punish you for your lack of faith, you must sleep here tonight. I will tell you the result before dawn.”

As he spoke, he pushed Yan Yan over onto the bed and helped her take off her little boots. He then tucked her into the blankets.

“Actually you don’t have to trouble yourself….”

“Hurry and sleep. If you can’t fall asleep, then it’s also fine to come think the problem over with me.”

Outside the door, Xiao An Zi leaned against the door eavesdropping.

Hearing the word “sleep”, his soul almost flew off in fright. Could his highness’s thoughts have stirred, and he was planning on eating her up? That wouldn’t do. Prior to marriage, there would be a nana from the palace who would check. How would they explain things at that time?

As the personal eunuch, he had to loyally remind his master not to make a mistake.

Before he could make a move, he saw the lights inside get extinguished. Xiao An Zi panicked and hurriedly barged in. Before he could take a few steps, he saw his household’s highness sitting at the bedside glaring at him.

Luo Huai Yuan moved his mouth. From the shape of his lips, Xiao An Zi could tell he was saying “scram”.

But how could he scram?

He stood on his toes and saw that there seemed to be someone sleeping in the bed. The figure was extremely frail compared to his highness’s large frame. He grew more worried the more he looked.

Xiao An Zi moved his mouth soundlessly. Luo Huai Yuan figured out what he was trying to say and glared at him viciously. Another “scram” was mouthed.

This bastard dared to misconstrue his noble character!

Xiao An Zi was no match for his highness’s ferocity. He retreated dispiritedly. Then, he spent the entire night awake, listening to the movements inside.

This won’t be mentioned for now.

Yan Yan was lying silently at first, but ended up falling asleep at some point.

She next awoke when Luo Huai Yuan woke her up. She startled awake and asked: “What time is it?”

“It isn’t dawn yet, still before five.”

Luo Huai Yuan seemed not to have slept. His eyes were bloodshot and there was a bruise on his chin.

“I have to hurry back. Did you not sleep the entire night? Hurry and sleep. It’s fine if you couldn’t think of anything. This was an unsolvable problem to begin with!”

“Who said I couldn’t think of anything? I told you not to look down on your husband. You don’t have to worry about this anymore. Stay home properly. I’ll make a trip to the Zhenguo Duke Estate later.” Luo Huai Yuan had a smile, his attitude extremely relaxed and smug.

“What did you come up with?”

Luo Huai Yuan gave her an overview. Yan Yan was skeptical.

“Will that work?”

“Trust me, it definitely will!”

Yan Yan carefully examined him for a moment before finally relaxing.

Since he said it would work, it should be fine, right?

For some reason, Yan Yan inexplicably trusted this person.

“I have to go back. Write me if anything comes up.”

Luo Huai Yuan nodded. “I’ll have someone send you back by carriage.”

He pulled her hand, seeming a little reluctant to part. Yan Yan’s face turned red. Thinking of what she did last night, she felt even more embarrassed.

She actually ran over to look for him, and even spent the night in his bed.

“No need. It’s not good if someone sees.”

After speaking, she hurriedly left. She took the same route back, through the window.

Luo Huai Yuan looked at her fading figure for a long while before calling Xiao An Zi to help him wash up and serve him breakfast. Once everything was done, the day would be bright and they could head to the Zhenguo Duke Estate directly.

Yan Yan returned to the Ningxiang Chambers without anyone noticing.

She took off her outerwear and lay back in bed before calling for Mei Xue.

She always got up at this time for training. Mei Xue hadn’t noticed her miss had been gone last night.

After getting changed and washing up, Yan Yan was about to eat breakfast when a clamor sounded from the courtyard.

The Ningxiang Chambers’ servants got up earlier than others due to Yan Yan’s schedule. The servants had to get up before she did.

The sweeper maid was sweeping the courtyard when she heard urgent pounding on the doors. When she opened them, she saw the Jinse Pavilion’s senior maid Cui Qiao. Her face was filled with anxiety as though something had happened. She rushed into the main residence the moment she entered, calling for the third miss.

Mei Xiang came out to welcome her with a smile: “Cui Qiao, what’s the matter?”

Cui Qiao’s face was tragically pale, her teeth continuously chattering, “Something happened, something happened….”

“What happened?”

Cui QIao didn’t respond and barged into the inner room, calling out, “Third miss, the madam has hung herself….”

Yan Yan dropped the spoon in her hand in shock, which clattered to the floor.

“Cui Qiao, don’t speak nonsense. Why would the madam do whatever out of the blue!?”

However, Yan Yan understood the reason behind it. Her face immediately turned pale as she stood up.

Cui Qiao gasped for breath. She had sprinted over the entire way. She really wanted to cry but was afraid things would get out of hand. She could only endure with all her might. Only after reaching the Ningxiang Chambers did she dare reveal her emotions.

She was a mess of tears as she spoke: “The madam wasn’t quite right when she returned yesterday so this servant kept an eye out. She didn’t sleep during the night and merely sat there in a daze. This servant didn’t dare leave out of fear, but the madam sent me out. This servant remained by the door the entire night, and had fallen asleep leaning against it. Right before dawn, there was a sound of a chair falling over. This servant rushed inside and saw the madam, the madam had actually hung herself….”

Mei Xiang’s group had turned pale.

“Then how is the madam now? Speak in complete sentences, ok….”

“The madam is fine, she had merely fainted. She’s awake now. This servant didn’t dare disclose anything and hurried….”

She hadn’t finished speaking yet when Yan Yan vanished.

The moment she entered the Jinse Pavilion’s main residence, there was the sound of suppressed weeping. It all came from Shen Yi Yao’s personal maids.

In the bedroom, Cui Ping cried and urged: “Madam, just what matter requires such a step? Even if you don’t care about anything else, there’s still the third miss and fourth young master. The third miss is about to get married. Haven’t you been preoccupied with this matter the entire time? Don’t you want to see the third miss in her wedding dress? There’s also the fourth young master. He’s been studying so hard…”

Shen Yi Yao lay on the bed without speaking or crying. Her face was so pale it was almost transparent. Her gaze was frozen and her appearance was frightening. She seemed to not have any energy at all.

After listening, she seemed to have come back to live. She sobbed and said: “It’s useless, it’s all useless now….”

Yan Yan walked in and finally relaxed after hearing this voice.

The room was a mess. There was still a rope hanging from the beam tied in a knot. It was swinging forlornly at the moment. Underneath was a toppled chair and a letter on the table.

Yan Yan’s gaze froze and she opened it up.

It only contained a thin piece of paper in Shen Yi Yao’s handwriting.

It was pretty much as Yan Yan had guessed. Shen Yi Yao was using her own death to denounce Yan Ting’s actions. She also expressed that this matter had nothing to do with the Zhenguo Duke Estate or her two children in her “suicide note”. It was her fault for being blind to his ambitious schemes. She had been led astray by him and ended up begging her own dad for a while before the Zhenguo Duke arranged for Yan Ting to be sent to the Pingsha Pass, allowing him to commit such an atrocious crime.

Every word was filled with suffering and the quill had penetrated through the paper. It was clear that the note had been written with despair on the brink of death.

While Shen Yi Yao was still crying, Yan Yan found it hard to tell if she was sad or joyful.

She walked over. Shen Yi Yao saw her daughter’s rigid face and started crying even harder.

“Out!”

Cui Ping froze and hurriedly stood up. She was going to speak and then hesitated: “Miss, you should properly convince the madam.”

Yan Yan nodded.

Only then did Cui Ping relax and leave. The third miss’s attitude had truly startled her.

“Ah Yan, it’s all mom’s fault. I’ve let you both down….”

“I’m only going to say this once, so listen closely. What you wanted to do would only hurt the people close to you and please your enemies. Since you already know it was a mistake, don’t do it again in the future. This matter doesn’t have anything to do with you, why would you do this…..”

Yan Yan wanted to scold her but realized she wasn’t able to maintain her tone. To put it plainly, she had also been very scared just now. Her mind had been blank and her hands were still trembling.

“No, no, this is the only way, the only way to save you and Mo’er. Even if the law doesn’t permit it, your grandfather will definitely do everything to save the two of you…”

Shen Yi Yao had truly been at wits end. She had racked her brains but couldn’t see a way out of this mess. She could only think of this method to sever her relationship with the Zhenguo Duke Estate. As for Yan Yan and Yan Mo, they could only rely on his majesty’s whims. Colluding with the enemy was a crime that merited execution of the entire family after all. The children were the first in line, and couldn’t escape. They could only rely on the old man’s mercy and hope he would spare them, even if the Zhenguo Duke Estate had to use their talisman of pardon.

This pitiful woman was without anyone to rely on. She used to be innocent and naïve, and had met a not so innocent man while she was young and foolish. She had lived in a fantasy for over ten years, and had finally awoken. Her son was almost grown and her daughter was about to get married when they encountered this calamity.

She didn’t have any other choice, and couldn’t come up with anything else. She could only use this method to defend her maternal family and her children.

Actually, Yan Yan had still had some hang-ups in her heart towards Shen Yi Yao. This was also why this mother and daughter pair weren’t as close as others.

This hang-up was finally dissolved at this moment.

“It’ll be fine. It’ll definitely be fine. Luo Huai Yuan told me he’s already come up with a plan. We will definitely be fine, and grandfather’s side as well.”

“Really?”

“Definitely!”

***

Luo Huai Yuan, who Yan Yan had pinned her hopes on, was visiting the Zhenguo Duke Estate at this moment.

After conversing with the Zhenguo Duke inside his study for almost an hour, he hurriedly departed.

After Luo Huai Yuan left, Shen Ding appeared in the study and saw that the Zhenguo Duke seemed to have been relieved from a burden.

“Perhaps this idea of his isn’t bad?”

After a round of discussion, the Zhenguo Duke gave this sort of verdict.

“I look forward to it!” Shen Ding responded.

Who would have thought a prince born into the royal family could come up with such a complicated and bizarre idea? These sorts of schemes seemed to be second nature to him!

The various movements of the fourth prince had been hidden from Emperor Xi, from the crown prince and Senior Concubine Xu’s factions, and from everyone in the capital. However, they weren’t hidden from the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people.

How should they put it?

This person was truly excellent, and devilishly clever. His insight and resourcefulness were second to none. Even compared to the crown prince and the second prince, he wouldn’t lose out. Unfortunately his background wasn’t good, and he seemed to have gone too far with that act of his. It wasn’t clear if he had such thoughts. If he did, how was he to turn things around?

This was truly a difficult question!

Shen Ding’s mind had involuntarily wandered. It was the Zhenguo Duke’s voice that made him snap out of it.

“That damn Yan Ting actually dared to something so despicable! We’ll let him off this time due to the urgency of the matter! Just wait until this matter is settled. We’ll have Yao’er divorce him. The fourth prince already has some plans in mind. You should help him at that time.” Speaking to this point, the Zhenguo Duke paused. “Perhaps he doesn’t need your help, and can accomplish it by himself. This fourth prince shouldn’t be underestimated!”

Shen Ding nodded. “Then, later Yan Ting….”

“Find a suitable time, and have him die!”

***

After finally being released and receiving the response he wanted, the “Broad Justice Band’s” big boss felt like roaring in laughter.

People in his occupation were all afraid of the Shen household’s troops!

The Shen household’s troops were garrisoned at the Pingsha Pass and defended against the northern barbarians outside while defending against smugglers inside. Every time smugglers landed in their hands, they would be killed without mercy!

If other merchants found out about today’s matter, they would be extremely astonished. Unfortunately, this matter could only be celebrated privately, and it wasn’t suitable to let others know about.

Thinking of that renowned Great General Shen’s expression just now, the big boss smiled smugly.

So what if it’s the Shen household? So what if he’s a great general? They had to make way for him!

As a merchant, the big boss had always acted cautiously. Even though he had seized their weakness, he wouldn’t have dared to reveal it if the situation hadn’t been desperate. After all, the Zhenguo Duke was widely known. Even those who hadn’t met him were afraid of him. The big boss wouldn’t have dared threaten them if his life weren’t at stake.

Unexpectedly, he ended up profiting from a disaster. He had figured out the Shen household’s bottom line. In the future, the Pingsha Pass would no longer be a threat to him!

On the other side, Shen Dong’s trusted aide spoke: “General, why should we give that merchant so much face? This subordinate saw his face blooming in a smile earlier.”

Shen Dong sneered slightly, “Despicable lowlife. What harm is there in letting him be smug for now!?”

***

Azure skies over desolate plains. The wind blew through the grass as cows and sheep grazed.

The grand plains were limitless, and stretched as far as the eye could see. It made one involuntarily feel carefree and relaxed.

A small tribe of northern barbarians suddenly appeared. This tribe had extremely few people, only around a hundred. The northern tribes were nomadic, and moved where there was food and water. Their entire lives were a series of migrations. Therefore, it wasn’t unusual to suddenly see a small tribe appear.

Especially since in these endless plains, the tribes were scattered all over. There was rarely any contact between the small tribes, and there were long periods where they wouldn’t see members of other tribes in their area.

One day, a large group of horses and people arrived at this small tribe.

This group had around two hundred people, and they were all fierce and sturdy. They wore the finest leather armor and had curved blades inlaid with gems at their waists. Looking at the things the horses carried, it was clear these weren’t ordinary people.

The small tribe’s chief was a white-bearded old man. He stepped up to welcome the group. A husky and hairy man wearing a black fox-fur hat with braided hair and large golden hoops through his ears spoke up: “We are vassals under the great Khan Wulihan. Our respected Khan has tasked us with handling some foreign affairs. We will stay at your tribe for a rest. Report your tribe’s name.”

The old man wearing a dark grey hat had a bitter expression. He bowed extremely deeply and replied respectfully: “This lowly one is the chief of the Ashina Tribe. My tribe is weak and has extremely few people. Since my lord has come to my tribe, you are all naturally honored guests.”

The large man harrumphed and walked towards the tribe’s most lavish tent.

Some followed the large man and some stood guard while others took the horses to drink and graze. Some tribespeople stepped up to help and were all glared off by these large men. It was clear these people were extremely cautious. Horses were very important to the northern tribes, and they wouldn’t casually let others handle them.

The northern tribes were nomads, and their royal tent was also called the royal court. It was in the most central part of the entire plains. This was the northern barbarians’ largest tribe, and they were the rulers of all these people. Their chiefs were given the title of khan. Within the tribes, the noble tribe had an incredibly lofty status. When the vassals of the ruler were out on business, they packed very lightly. No matter where they went, tribes both small and large had to welcome them warmly.

Basically they were freeloading. Not only would they not pay, they also had to be treated like they owned the place. If the hosting tribe encountered those with discipline there naturally wouldn’t be anything to fear. If they encountered those with evil tendencies, their women would be taken and used as well. Putting it nicely, these were gracious offerings.

This was why the old chief had such a bitter expression.

Cows and sheep were naturally butchered. To treat these large men to a meal, the Ashina Tribe had to slaughter ten fat sheep and one strong bull, making the old chief Mu Ah’s heart ache and shiver.

His old face was clearly twisted but he still had to put on a pleasant smile, making those large fellows roar out in laughter.

“Hey, Mu Ah, you’re really stingy. Us coming to your tribe is a huge honor, why the long face!?”

These large fellows dug in and their actions started becoming crude. They all undid their fur clothing, revealing their chests as they ate and drank with great gusto.

The alcohol trickled from their mouths down their chests. Mu Ah once again felt his heart ache.

Hearing their words, he hurriedly put on a smile: “It’s actually not this old man being stingy. Last year there was a freeze and the tribe was struck by calamity. Many tribesmen died and many livestock were also frozen to death. Now that spring is finally here, we’re hoping to breed some more. If this winter is the same as last year, my tribe’s prospects are bleak!”

Mu Ah’s suffering didn’t move these vassals of the royal tribe. Instead, they pointed at Mu Ah in amusement and laughed loudly.

One large fellow with his head shaven apart from a single braid spoke up: “Enough, enough. Now that we lords have graced your tribe, it’s your greatest honor. We’ve had our fill of food and wine. Hurry up and offer your beauties up to serve us!”

Mu Ah’s expression turned bitter again. He wanted to beg for mercy but was kicked aside.

“If you make any more trouble, we’ll slaughter your tribe!”

Mu Ah could only leave the tent trembling.

When he returned, there were several women wearing coarse clothing.

These women were all tall and sturdy, their skin tanned. Not only that, they were clearly not young.

The large men were all furious. One of them smashed the alcohol jug. “Mu Ah, are you messing with us? Why did you skimp out by bringing us these aunties? What we want are beauties!”

These women were timid and immediately knelt to the floor in fear.

Mu Ah also knelt and wailed, “Lord, it’s not that Mu Ah is being disrespectful. Our tribe is truly too weak. After the freeze last year, all the young women ran off with men from other tribes. Some froze to death. Now we only have these women. They are all here.”

The large man with golden hoops through his ears didn’t believe him. He signaled with his eyes and several of his men left the tent. The Ashina Tribe wasn’t large, and it didn’t take long to circle around.

Soon, the men returned and nodded to their boss.

During their rounds, there were truly no other women in the tents. The men were mostly weak and sickly as well.

“What a dampener!”

One of the men waved his hand. Mu Ah was about to take these aunties away when a man sitting in the back stood up. He pulled one of the aunties over and fussed: “Old women are still women. Haven’t had flesh in a while. Let me satisfy my cravings.”

The others were disdainful and some were laughing. The auntie being dragged lost her head out of fear, but didn’t dare cry out.

The tent was getting rowdy when the scene suddenly froze. Soon, those large men fell to the floor one by one. It wasn’t clear whether they were alive or dead.

At this time, a fatty wearing a fur robe and fur hat walked in. He looked rather sturdy and round, and was clearly used to eating and drinking well. There was a very small braid in his hair that draped down from the hat. It looked rather comical.

He looked around and scolded angrily: “Screw me, these brutes are really animals. They won’t even let aunties off!”

The old Mu Ah straightened up. He still looked old, but his aura completely changed.

“Luckily Noble Yun’s medicine was extremely effective. These people are all unconscious.”

That “Noble Yun” was about to speak when another person lifted the tent flap.

“The people outside are also dealt with!”

This person was actually Yan Yan. She was dressed as a barbarian girl. She wore a red little hat with multicolored rims. Her jet-black hair was brushed into many small braids and scattered by her cheeks and behind her. Her skin was fair, her eyes bright and her teeth white. She was extremely beautiful.

That Noble Yun turned into putty after taking a look. He happily sidled over, “Yan Yan.”

“Stop acting coquettish. Let’s finish our business here first!”

Luo Huai Yuan immediately turned serious. He straightened up and ordered: “Have these people tied up. We’ll interrogate the leaders later.”

Author’s notes:

It’s impossible to kill off Yan Ting at this time without implicating Shen Yi Yao, Yan Yan and Yan Mo. The situation is pressing and Yan Yan’s marriage is imminent. They can only deal with this matter first. Then Yan Yan should be getting married, Shen Yi Yao should also divorce Yan Ting. Then, Yan Ting should go bye bye.

If you don’t want to make him go bye bye, and want him to live happily ever after with CEO Xu, you can tell this author. Haha.

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