Thank you Christiine G. for your support!
The fourth prince estate’s servants were all chosen from the nobodies within the palace. Only those who weren’t favored in the palace would be sent to the fourth prince estate.
At first, those people inevitably felt resentful and felt their future was dark. After staying at the fourth prince estate for a while, they felt it was actually quite pleasant. No matter how they put it, it was quiet, peaceful and without any struggles. It wasn’t like the palace where people would randomly die.
Once they got used to these pleasant days, everyone started to rather like this place. The master wasn’t harsh and he currently wasn’t in the estate. They just had to follow the rules and do what they needed to do. No one would scold them. It was like their own little paradise.
Yan Yan’s dowry had been brought into the fourth prince estate on the day of the wedding. Although the fourth highness and his consort ended up living in the palace, the maids that came along with the dowry settled into the estate.
The estate’s general manager Eunuch Xi was someone who didn’t speak much. After arranging Yan Yan’s maids into the main residence, he washed his hands of the matter. People naturally came to tell them the rules of the estate. Matron Zou was an experienced person. As the nana that came as part of Yan Yan’s dowry, she took charge and made sure Yan Yan’s residence was in proper order.
The fourth prince estate’s servants treated them very politely. Without considering anything else, just the main residence’s appearance made it clear what the consort’s position was in his highness’s heart. Those who didn’t wish to court death thus behaved. They were all just nobodies in some remote place anyway. There was no reason to struggle over this and that.
Therefore, the fourth prince estate was currently at peace.
On this day, hearing that the fourth prince and consort were returning to the estate, they had started preparing bright and early. The Yanran1 Residence was also filled with excitement.
There were naturally people who heard that the couple had been kicked out of the palace. The servants in the estate were unfazed. Some of the little lasses in the Yanran Residence were anxious and unsettled but the veterans in the estate comforted them. This wasn’t a big deal. Back then, his highness had been expelled from the palace when he was around ten. This time would be his third time. Don’t be scared, no need to be scared!
It wasn’t clear how Luo Huai Yuan would react if he knew the servants in his estate were roasting him.
Before long, Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Yan’s carriage arrived at the front doors.
Due to a moment of interest, Luo Huai Yuan decided to give Yan Yan a tour of the fourth prince estate. The carriage which contained their luggage entered from the western corner gate. The two prepared to stroll around the estate accompanied by Mei Xiang, Xiao An Zi and the rest. Eunuch Xi was supposed to come as well, but Luo Huai Yuan saw this old fellow’s reluctant appearance and let him take his leave.
Eunuch Xi saluted and swiftly took his leave. His steps were swift and didn’t match his aged appearance. Yan Yan had been wondering why the general manager was such an old eunuch when she saw this, and felt amazement in her heart.
“Don’t mind that old fellow. All he knows to do is put on an act.”
Eunuch Xi stumbled upon hearing this. The low-ranked eunuch next to him hurriedly supported him and the two disappeared from view.
“Your words are always so unpleasant.” Yan Yan scolded him.
He smiled flatteringly: “All my pleasant words end up being said to you.”
Yan Yan gave him a glare and continued walking. He hurriedly followed behind her.
The entire fourth prince estate was over eighty mu in area. According to regulations, this naturally wasn’t sufficient for a prince. However, the inner city only had so much land. It was already pretty good for the fourth prince estate to have such a large spot.
The estate was divided into two parts, front and back. The front was the outer court were the men handled external affairs and entertained guests. This part was extremely large and imposingly decorated. In the middle was a long limestone walkway with two outer studies arranged symmetrically on either side. Towards the outside were a certain number of residences for the servants and for those who did odd jobs. Further outwards were the stables and where the carriages were stored.
Beyond the outer ceremonial gates was a wide and spacious hall for discussing business. On the sides were auxiliary and side buildings, storage buildings and tea rooms. There were also large and small reception pavilions and drawing rooms. All this occupied a lot of space.
Beyond the inner ceremonial gates was the inner court.
The inner court’s scenery was completely different from the outer court. The outer court was dignified and simple. There were almost no flower beds, and only a few dark green and upright trees here and there. The inner court was richly ornamented and everywhere was clearly meticulously designed.
Along a walkway paved with colored cobblestones was a large hall with curved awnings. On a board in front of the hall, three words were written in flamboyant cursive calligraphy: Xianyun2 Hall.
This fatty really emphasized his carefree and unrestrained attitude whenever he got the chance. It wasn’t clear if others understood, but Yan Yan did. She couldn’t help but snort. This was because these words were written truly clumsily. Even though Yan Yan wasn’t familiar with literature, she still shook her head as she looked at it.
There was a lateral courtyard to the left of the Xianyun Hall. That was Luo Huai Yuan’s inner study.
Yan Yan had gone there before. Prior to marriage, that was were Luo Huai Yuan lived.
On the right side was a side hall and a connecting passage. Walking through it led to a colored cobblestone path and a round patterned door. This was the main residence, which had seven rooms and seven pillars. There were two side wings and auxiliary residences and storage rooms in the front and back. It was grand and richly decorated. Three large words were written: Yanran Residence.
These three words were naturally written by Luo Huai Yuan. Yan Yan saw his pleased expression as he looked at the golden words and didn’t speak up to give him a blow.
Matron Zou and the rest hurried over and lowered themselves in salute.
“Greetings to fourth highness. Greetings to the consort.”
“Enough, you may all rise.”
Since they had arrived at the Yanran Residence, the two didn’t plan on going any further. Yan yan was fine but Luo Huai Yuan’s stamina was lacking.
The two of them entered and a group of maids came over to help them change into casual clothing and shoes.
“Do you like it? We’ll be living here in the future!”
Luo Huai Yuan was talking about this Yanran Residence.
It was extremely exquisitely decorated. The furniture and décor were all elegant and revealed an unobtrusive luxury. The main hall was made up of three interconnected rooms. The eastern side hall was the living room and further in was an extremely spacious bedroom. The western room was the study and the heated room. The style was simple and relaxing, just how Yan Yan liked it. This involved a lot of effort on Luo Huai Yuan’s part and also Matron Zou’s group meticulously putting things in place.
Suddenly arriving at a place where the things and the people all felt extremely familiar, Yan Yan felt truly relaxed. Although no one restricted her during her stay at the Xianyun Palace Hall, she had still felt suppressed. Her complexion noticeably improved and Luo Huai Yuan’s mood couldn’t help but become extremely good as well.
After lunch, the two went out for a walk.
Through the rear corner doors of the Yanran Residence and beyond the walkway was a large reception pavilion. Winter had just passed and it was still a little cold outside. Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Yan merely walked around a bit with their arms folded before going back for a nap.
Yan Yan had the habit of taking naps. Unfortunately, there was an annoyance next to her. As she was drifting in and out of sleep, she felt someone’s hands messing around. She scooted further inwards but that person also scooted along with her. He occupied too much space and was like a mountain in the way, giving off an extremely strong sense of pressure.
Yan Yan didn’t want to bother with him. She knew if she responded there would be no end to it. She might as well pretend to be asleep. Unexpectedly, that person had no bottom line and didn’t let her off even though she was asleep. He took off her innerwear. His actions were extremely swift. Before she could react, she was left with only her sleepwear. Her underwear was hanging on her legs and was in the process of getting pulled downwards.
Yan Yan opened her eyes but didn’t see anyone. The embroidered quilt was wrapped into a huge bundle. She simply wanted to lift it up for a beating. Did he have to be so vulgar? Right as she was thinking this, the other party swiftly put his mouth to a critical area. She trembled and her toes couldn’t help but curl.
“Damn fatty are you done….” Her voice trembled.
No one responded and the blankets continued to squirm as though it were a cocoon.
Yan Yan’s cheeks were flushed and her eyes were blurry. Before long, she couldn’t hold it in any longer. Seeing that damn person still not getting to the main event, she no longer held back and pulled him up. She pressed him to the bed and got on top.
Luo Huai Yuan let out an extremely satisfied cry of admiration. Yan Yan viciously glared at him and held his mouth shut with one hand and used her other hand to brace against his arm as she moved.
Luo Huai Yuan’s face was aggrieved but he was actually in bliss.
Wuwuwu, too domineering, I’m actually being forcibly taken…..
The various discordant sounds from the room made those little lasses outside have weird expressions.
These little lasses were all part of Yan Yan’s dowry. They weren’t old, around twelve and thirteen. How could they have experienced such circumstances before? Seeing their few older sisters acting as steady as Mount Tai, an ignorant little lass couldn’t help but ask worriedly: “Is the consort and his highness having an argument?”
Mei Xiang who was tidying up the shelves blushed. She spat: “No talking nonsense.”
The little lass called Lan’er was thin and frail. She looked rather delicate and pretty. She knit her fine brows and persisted: “I’ve heard our consort’s martial arts were extremely good. Could they be fighting? Should we go stop them? My dad and my mom often shut the doors to their room and fight.”
This lass was born into the Zhenguo Duke Estate and had long since heard about Miss Yan’s reputation. After Yan Yan got married, the Zhenguo Duke Estate was afraid her maids weren’t enough and sent some more over.
Yi Yun simply felt like face-palming and wanted to scold her a little. However, she wasn’t able to say it and could only rebuke her with a red face: “Don’t talk blindly. Our consort and his highness’s relationship is extremely good. This is, this is….aiya, you guys will understand in the future. Don’t be too curious.”
These young maids were all sent over from the Zhenguo Duke Estate. Some had been instructed by Shen Yi Yao in preparation for her daughter’s dowry. Mei Xiang wasn’t that young anymore and might get married at some point. Although Yi Yun and Yi Meng were a little younger than her, they also weren’t too far from the age of marriage. Therefore, this batch of maids were all young but their etiquette was extremely good. With some guidance, they would be very useful in the future.
Of these people, some of them were ignorant but some were only slightly unaware. Those who understood pulled the ignorant aside and whispered a little. Mei Xiang heard a quiet “don’t talk nonsense, this is our highness cherishing our consort”. Looking at those immature little things, some looking preoccupied while nodding and others blushing and not making a sound, Mei Xiang couldn’t help but smile.
Yi Yun was still a little more forceful, and quietly scolded: “You’re not allowed to comment on the master’s affairs. Go order the maids outside to prepare hot water and have them bring it over in a bit.”
The few people hurriedly shrunk their necks and took their leave.
The three of them looked at each other helplessly and then busied themselves as though nothing was going on. They seemed deaf towards the movements inside the room.
After dinner things were idle. Luo Huai Yuan took the time to explain the overall situation of the fourth prince estate to Yan Yan.
Luo Huai Yuan hadn’t been conferred a title yet so this couldn’t count as moving out and constructing his estate. On the surface, he owned no personal properties and all his expenses were handled by the internal affairs department.
The general manager of the estate was Eunuch Xi. Under him were various managing eunuchs and palace maids who were in charge of the other servants. These people were responsible for the operation of the estate. Of course, there were also exceptions such as Yan Yan’s people. The people who came with her dowry were not managed by the estate. However, they had to comply with the estate’s rules. On a deeper level, they counted as servants who belonged to Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Yan.
Of course this situation would undergo drastic changes once Luo Huai Yuan received his title and left for his vassal state. The servants were currently arranged by the palace and there were inevitably snakes mixed in with the dragons. However, based on the current situation they could be counted as knowing their place. Of course such matters weren’t certain. They had known their place prior to Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Yan moving in. No one knew what things will be like in the future.
The reason Luo Huai Yuan told Yan Yan these things was to tell her to have her own people grasp the Yanran Residence well. Everything else could be left to Eunuch Xi. Just like how he had lived here previously, they just had to watch a few places carefully while ignoring everything else.
Due to having been “poisoned” previously, Eunuch Xi could be trusted. However, this didn’t mean that those under him could be trusted. After all, there was no knowing the hearts of others. It was better to be more cautious prior to leaving the capital.
Luo Huai Yuan pulled out a box from under his bed and handed Yan Yan a key. He told her that all his belongings were inside and it would now be given to his wife to manage.
Yan Yan opened the box and saw it was completely filled with stacks of silver banknotes, countless gold and silver ingots and various gems. There were also all sorts of items unfamiliar to Yan Yan, but despite not recognizing them she could tell they were precious. They were probably objects Luo Huai Yuan obtained from the west.
There were also a number of accounting ledgers. Yan Yan flipped through them but the handwriting inside was incomparably ugly. She couldn’t even tell what was written.
She waved the accounting ledger in her hand. Luo Huai Yuan who was lying in bed squinted his eyes in a smile: “That, although there’s an accounting office, I also keep my own records. For example, how much money was invested and how much profit was made. This is just something for me to look at. I’ll explain it to you some other day. Look at these silver banknotes. Have you noticed that your hubby is really rich?” He showed off his wealth smugly.
Yan Yan gave him a glance and lowered her head, continuing to sort through the things.
She had never seen someone who dumped everything into one box. It was a mess. However, it had to be said, Yan Yan could tell the fatty was quite rich with just a glance. There was probably enough for the two of them to live off of for several lifetimes. These things were naturally not suitable for outsiders to tidy up. She was wondering how much time she would need before putting everything in place.
Luo Huai Yuan had quite a lot of businesses in various places. Yan Yan was aware of this as well. He was usually mysterious and all his actions were methodical. Only after seeing the mess here did Yan Yan realize it was all a sham.
“You have so many businesses but not a consolidated ledger? How many managers do you have under you and what are their responsibilities? Is there a general manager?”
These words put Luo Huai Yuan on the spot. He stammered a couple of times before pulling Yan Yan to the bed. He brushed the matter off saying they would discuss it tomorrow and that they should sleep first.
As Yan Yan expected, Luo Huai Yuan’s ledgers were truly a mess.
He was involved in all sorts of industries. He had restaurants, jewelry and silverware stores, and other stores that sold all sorts of trinkets. He also had quite a few taverns and inns. These were all established in the past few years. Of course, there was also the income from the Fu Province’s textiles and merchant ships.
For these businesses, he generally didn’t have anyone overseeing things. After establishing the commission system and other systems of reward and punishment, he left everything to his subordinates. Normally the managers handled the auditing of accounts and distribution of dividends. The managers and the accounting office kept each other in check, forming a pretty good system. However, he never looked over the ledgers that were handed over. He just cared about whether his businesses were profitable, and that the silver and the numbers on the ledgers matched.
This sort of system was extremely hard to tolerate for someone like Yan Yan who had learned to manage the household. It was true that this method was effective, but there were risks involved. For example, if those underneath realized those above never looked at the ledgers, they could all collaborate to embezzle the profits.
Therefore, on the second day at the estate, Yan Yan started busying herself. She had Luo Huai Yuan hand over all the ledgers from the past few years so she could slowly look them over. She also gathered the managers in one place to meet them face to face. This was to tell them that the person at the top had changed. If there was anything to report, they should go to the mistress.
Actually, despite looking disordered, Luo Huai Yuan wasn’t a fool. Due to it being inconvenient to disclose his identity, many of his businesses were established with partners.
His major partner was the Zhenguo Duke Estate. These years, the two households had been raking it in. With the Zhenguo Duke Estate personally sending experienced people to manage things, he just needed to sit back and receive the money. However, for some reason, he had also started several private businesses. The taverns and inns were places where information could be easily gathered.
What Yan Yan was looking at were these businesses. She chose an appropriate day to summon these managers to the fourth prince estate.
These managers and shopkeepers only realized now that their boss was the fourth consort. Luo Huai Yuan had been too secretive normally. He never revealed himself in front of these people in the past, and let his trusted aides handle everything. Therefore, these people knew their boss was mysterious but didn’t who it was.
Seeing their misunderstanding, Yan Yan who was sitting behind the screen naturally took it in stride. She made the excuse that it wasn’t convenient to show her face while still living at her lady’s chambers in the past. Since she still wanted to earn money, she had left things to her subordinates.
What these managers were thinking won’t be mentioned for now. This meeting went extremely smoothly. It wasn’t clear for now who was loyal and who was wicked. This had to wait for Yan Yan to finish looking over the ledgers.
Yan Yan took some time to visit her maternal family. This was her first time going back since that day.
Yan Yan didn’t inform the Weiyuan Marquis Estate ahead of time. She also didn’t stand on ceremony and travelled lightly, only bringing Mei Xiang and a few others.
Unexpectedly, she ended up discovering an extremely infuriating matter after getting back.
The servants at the estate saw the third miss had returned. They greeted her respectfully and welcomed her in while sending people to inform the Jinse Pavilion.
By the time Yan Yan arrived, Shen Yi Yao was already waiting in the hall.
After greeting her, Yan Yan sat down. Shen Yi Yao held her hand and started inquiring about her. Hearing that everything was fine, and knowing that she was living in the fourth prince estate after leaving the palace, she was simply delighted and didn’t know what to do.
Cui Ping saw this and hurriedly joked around, and also brought over a water basin and a towel to help Shen Yi Yao wash her face. Shen Yi Yao then sat down and continued to speak. During this time, Yan Yan found out that Yan Ling was about to get married. The date was on the third of March.
“Having left the palace, it’s a lot more relaxing. I’ll come supplement fourth sis’s dowry in a few days.”
They then discussed the matters in the estate. Nothing major happened in the last few months. The two concubines were extremely well-behaved. The old madam also didn’t cause any trouble. The third branch’s Chen-shi rarely showed herself in front of others. Instead, Concubine Cui had gotten pregnant again and was in the limelight recently.
Mentioning pregnancy, Shen Yi Yao quietly asked Yan Yan if she was showing any signs.
Yan Yan blushed, though she didn’t hide anything from Shen Yi Yao. She told her that it wasn’t suitable to have children at this time, and they will leave it for later.
This matter has some backstory. After coming back from Attendant Ma’s place that day, Yan Yan had noticed Luo Huai Yuan’s expression was strange. She asked him about it. He didn’t hide anything from her and told her his worries. He didn’t mention Attendant Ma, but Yan Yan guessed she had definitely reminded him about this sort of thing. Otherwise, why would a man like Luo Huai Yuan understand these things?
Towards the matter of children, Yan Yan felt it was a completely vague concept. Luo Huai Yuan made a lot of sense so the two of them reached an agreement not to have children for now.
As for how to prevent pregnancy, Luo Huai Yuan told Yan Yan to leave it to him. She thus stopped thinking about it. In the end, despite the two of them doing it quite a lot, Yan Yan had never gotten pregnant.
Hearing this, Shen Yi Yao was a little frightened. After a while, she sighed: “That’s also true. It’s better to wait until you head out.”
This heading out referred to leaving for the vassal state. Princes would leave after their coming-of-age ceremony when they turned twenty. Normally they couldn’t return to the capital unless summoned. Luo Huai Yuan wasn’t young anymore. He should be leaving for his vassal state in about a year.
Mother and daughter chatted idly for a while.
Shen Yi Yao was wearing a pale purple narrow-sleeved little jacket embroidered with begonias. She wore a dark green skirt on the bottom, looking truly simple yet elegant. Her hair was done in a bun with two white jade hairpins, looking refined yet also not lacking in style. She wore a white jade bracelet on her wrist.
At this time the two were sitting on the kiln in the heated room. There was an exquisite little rosewood kiln table filled with tea and various snacks. Shen Yi Yao was lifting her teacup when her bracelet slipped downwards and revealed a bruise.
Yan Yan’s gaze froze. She waited for Shen Yi Yao to put her teacup down before grabbing her arm. She moved her bracelet aside and saw a bruise on her slender and fair arm. The shape looked like it was caused by a man forcefully pulling her arm.
“What happened here?”
Shen Yi Yao was going to speak and then hesitated. Finally, she sighed and told her the cause.
It turned out that ever since the matter of colluding with the enemy that time, despite her daughter and son-in-law having solved it, Shen Yi Yao was still unsettled. Although she didn’t know what Yan Ting was busy with daily, she still heard that he was very close to the second prince’s faction.
Since the start of the year, people frequently submitted petitions in court, saying that it was time for the second prince to leave for his vassal state. The court was boiling due to this matter. Those who didn’t understand merely assumed that the second prince had come of age, and was supposed to leave already. They didn’t realize that during this time, there was quite the struggle in the palace. Empress Xiao saw that Senior Concubine Xu’s momentum was growing and the second prince had thoroughly suppressed the crown prince. She thus convened with her maternal family, which resulted in the repeated petitions.
In theory, princes should leave for their vassal states after coming of age. The second prince had long since reached the age and his ceremony had also been held a while ago. However, he kept showing no signs of leaving. This issue had been raised by officials before. Emperor Xi’s opinion was that the second prince hadn’t married yet, and it was more suitable to leave after his wedding. The matter was thus delayed. Now that the second prince had been married for over three months, this matter was raised again.
These days the court was boiling over and Emperor Xi had yet to declare his position. Even Shen Yi Yao who stayed mostly indoor had heard about it.
Having come from the Zhenguo Duke Estate, Shen Yi Yao still had some insights into the court. She knew that this matter definitely had to do with the crown prince’s side. Anything that involved the struggle for the throne had never ended well. Didn’t Shen Qi leave the household at such a young age, and didn’t even come back for New Year’s?
Shen Yi Yao still had some lingering fear over the previous calamity. Seeing Yan Ting sticking close to the second prince’s side, she was deeply afraid something similar would happen again. After thinking it over, she finally decided to divorce Yan Ting.
Actually she had these thoughts for a while, but didn’t act due to her daughter and son. Her daughter was now married. Her son still had a few years before he matured. However, who knew what things would be like in a few years? Having implicated her household once was enough for Shen Yi Yao’s guts to crack. She was willing to risk anything to prevent it from happening again. After considering for a while, she merely felt sorry for the young Ah Mo.
Once her mind was made up, Shen Yi Yao discussed it with Yan Mo and obtained his wholehearted support.
Although he couldn’t see her as frequently after she left, he still had legs and could make a few more trips to go see her. The Zhenguo Duke Estate was their safe haven. Without the Zhenguo Duke Estate, Shen Yi Yao and Yan Mo’s days wouldn’t be so carefree. Even Yan Yan would probably have encountered a lot more trouble in the palace if it weren’t for the Zhenguo Duke Estate behind her. The schemes would have been more vicious instead of playing some minor mischief.
The highest place under the heavens was also the most snobbish place. Those without the right status would be trampled to death with a moment of inattention. For example, if Yan Yan had a lower status, would the empress have only confined her for ten days after she made a ruckus at the internal affairs department? Saying that she was sympathetic due to her being newly married in was just an excuse.
These words were pleasing to the ears, but only a fool would believe them.
Therefore, Shen Yi Yao laid things out with Yan Ting that night.
Yan Ting was furious and refused to divorce. During this time, he injured Shen Yi Yao’s hand. Luckily there were maids and grannies nearby so it didn’t get out of hand. They merely left on bad terms.
After finding out her daughter had come, Shen Yi Yao purposefully put on a narrow-sleeved jacket and even wore a bracelet to hide it. Unexpectedly, it was noticed by the sharp-eyed Yan Yan.
When Yan Ting was mentioned, Yan Yan felt an uncontrollable sense of nausea.
During this period of time, Luo Huai Yuan had told her quite a few things. This included what was going on between Yan Ting and Xu Xiang Rong. At the time, Yan Yan was shocked and her emotion were indescribable. After considering things repeatedly, she decided not to tell her mom about it. This was because Luo Huai Yuan had said that due to this matter, even if he didn’t make a move, the Zhenguo Duke’s side wouldn’t let Yan Ting off. It was better to not let his mother-in-law know in case she became even more upset.
Although these thoughts were good, Yan Yan had still underestimated that person’s shamelessness. In a fit of anger, she had the servants in the hall leave and ended up telling Shen Yi Yao everything she knew.
Seeing the several little lasses leaving, Mei Xiang’s group of three acted busy before getting together.
Yi Meng with her hands at her waist: Those little lasses are too insensible. How is this his highness cherishing the consort? It’s clearly our consort cherishing his highness.
Mei Xiang blushing: No need to point it out. Real friends don’t snitch.
Yi Yun: How do you guys think our consort is cherishing his highness? (so damn curious, like a cat clawing at the heart)…..
Mei Xiang hurriedly scolds: Cease your curiosity. Don’t you know his majesty has ordered the esteemed official of the Ministry of War to eradicate pornography and illegal publications? Do you want our consort to get locked up?
At these words, the three people scattered like birds and continued to do their jobs.
Just an irresponsible little performance. Haha, just messing around. Don’t take it seriously.