As the deadline given by the document gradually approached, the Weiyuan Marquis Estate started growing chaotic.
In the past the servants could still be seen methodically performing their assigned tasks. Now it was rare to see anyone. They were anxious and wondering what the future would bring. The third branch’s managing grannies were frequently seen cursing and beating disobedient maids. The Rongan Hall was the same.
At the Jinse Pavilion, Shen Yi Yao remained calm. The servants knew the madam had money and a powerful maternal household so they didn’t seem worried either. They just did their all to get into Shen Yi Yao’s good books, hoping that they wouldn’t be part of the servants getting sold off.
Towards Shen Yi Yao’s unmoving attitude, there weren’t many people coming to her door anymore. They wondered secretly whether the Zhenguo Duke had lost the emperor’s favor, or perhaps he didn’t favor this daughter of his. Of course these were just guesses. After all, Yan Mo was Shen Yi Yao’s son. Even if the title was extended, Yan Mo would be the one inheriting it. Since she didn’t take care of her own son, she must truly be powerless.
They were forced to face reality. What should they do in the future?
The estate had been split before in the past. The three branches only stuck together due to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate. Now that the estate was no longer theirs, they would naturally go their separate ways. But since the estate was impoverished, how were they supposed to survive?
Actually this was a problem they should have considered right after Yan Ting died. After all, he had been propping up all the expenses. Now, this problem had become even more pressing.
Shen Yi Yao remained aloof and the eldest branch didn’t give any indications for now. Chen-shi couldn’t sleep all night and gradually couldn’t remain still. Ignoring the things that happened previously, she went to find Yan Qu. The couple discussed for a while before Yan Qu made a trip to the Rongan Hall.
The next day, Yan Qu gathered everyone to discuss what to do.
The two from the third branch had thought their actions were extremely covert, but they had already been seen by the eldest branch and Shen Yi Yao. The two branches sat there waiting to see what schemes the third branch came up with.
The third branch’s intentions were actually very clear. They wanted to take the estate’s two remaining businesses. Everyone was aware of the estate’s situation after all. No matter how noble people were, they still had to eat, drink and crap. All this required silver. But how to get silver? Naturally, a profitable business was needed. The estate only had these two businesses remaining. The third branch knew there wasn’t enough to go around and thus made the first move.
Of course, Yan Qu couldn’t be the one to say this. The old madam had to make the decision.
After all, this household didn’t only have the third branch. Without mentioning the eldest branch for now, Yan Ting left quite a few children behind. How could the direct lineage be discarded for another branch? Only if the old madam spoke up would there be no arguments.
The old madam had currently shed all pretenses. She was in such a state already so she no longer had to consider things as much. Yan Ting’s death seemed to tear away her last bit of cover, revealing her thoughts. Especially since she could only speak through Matron Zhao nowadays, there was no way to cover her actions using pompous words.
Seeing that everyone was gathered, the old madam gave a glance. Matron Zhao stepped up and spoke the old madam’s intentions.
In general, it wasn’t possible to keep the estate. Their shelter was about to be taken away and they were forced to move. Everyone was aware of the estate’s situation. They naturally couldn’t afford another such large residence. Therefore, they had to live separately. Since they had to split up, the things in the estate had to be divided. The old madam was planning on giving the remaining two businesses to the third branch.
Actually these words had been rephrased by Matron Zhao. However, no matter how nice she made it sound, it couldn’t cover up the truth, an extremely selfish truth. The old madam was planning to give everything to the third branch.
What about the other two branches?
Without mentioning the fact that Shen Yi Yao had her own wealth, the eldest branch wasn’t well off at all. This was something everyone knew. Having married off two daughters and with their sons about to look for wives, they would be left with nothing? How were they supposed to survive? Furthermore, part of the public funds belonged to the eldest branch.
However, the old madam no longer remembered the good son Yan Zhi. When choosing between her own son and a good son, the old madam was naturally biased towards her own son. Just like how Yan Ting was treated differently in the past. Yan Ting was the successor of the marquis title and also more capable than Yan Qu. The old madam was naturally biased towards him.
Yan Zhi remained silent and Shen Yi Yao was the same way. Xue-shi wasn’t good-natured and spoke up with a sharp voice.
“Since mom wants to do so, we juniors cannot doubt her. However, several things need to be clarified. Since all the businesses are going to youngest brother-in-law and second brother just passed away, what about second sis-in-law and the second branch’s juniors?”
Yan Qu looked embarrassed and didn’t raise his head. Chen-shi glanced at Xue-shi and twisted her mouth. Matron Zhao was the old madam’s spokesperson and naturally had to bear the brunt of these words. Her expression was awkward and she made a show of looking at the old madam. The old madam didn’t say anything so Matron Zhao remained silent as well.
Matron Zhao wasn’t a fool. Although she served the old madam and was forced to be her spokesperson, she also didn’t want to offend the others. The old madam couldn’t move or speak. If she offended the other masters and mistresses, they could find an excuse to deal with her. That would truly be an injustice.
Her position was a very awkward one and she could only tread carefully and keep the right balance. There were many times when she understood what the old madam meant, but would pretend not to know until the old madam “said” it. Therefore, the old madam berated her often.
Only when Xue-shi repeated her words did the old madam’s face turn fierce. She glared viciously at Xue-shi, seemingly asking what business it was of hers. She then glared at Matron Zhao and babbled something.
Matron Zhao was sweating. She hurriedly bent over and listened, saying: “Er, the old madam means to say that the second madam is wealthy and shouldn’t have any issues raising the people in her branch.”
The atmosphere suddenly froze when these words were said.
Matron Zhao smiled and tried to smooth things over: “Our second madam is kind and virtuous. Since the lord marquis has passed away, it’s also reasonable for the second madam to arrange things for the branch.”
Shen Yi Yao didn’t show any expression, as though it had nothing to do with her.
Xue-shi nodded as though she understood the old madam’s thoughts.
Actually this matter didn’t need to be spoken out loud. Shen Yi Yao was the madam of the second branch. With Yan Ting gone, it was reasonable that Shen Yi Yao take over. But the old madam bringing this up right after saying the businesses were all going to the third branch made it a little awkward and heartless.
Yan Qu felt extremely awkward, and even resentfully wondered if eldest sis-in-law did it on purpose.
Xue-shi was naturally doing it on purpose!
She wasn’t someone who would suffer in silence. If she had to suffer, she was going to air it out! An eye for an eye. Since they dared to do it, they shouldn’t be embarrassed to hear it said out loud.
She then spoke again: “Back when dad divided the assets amongst our three branches, we pooled them into the public funds since we didn’t split apart. Now that we’re splitting up, the assets naturally should be divided again. But since mom has spoken, and wants to leave the rest of the businesses to the third branch, what about our eldest branch?”
This was the peak of the awkwardness within the hall. Everyone’s expression turned stiff.
Before anyone reacted, Xue-shi changed her tone and said: “Of course, filial piety takes precedence before everything. Since mom has spoken, we can only obey. Even though we’re about to end up homeless and hungry, we can only obey.”
Her face was completely expressionless. This was the first time Xue-shi looked this way. It was as though this matter didn’t concern her, or that she had given all hope. Yan Zhi whose head was lowered the entire time tugged at her and wanted her to stop talking. Xue-shi waved his hand away, tears finally streaming down her cheeks.
“Why won’t you let me speak? Apart from not being birthed by mom, where has our eldest branch fallen short? As the oldest brother, when have you let anyone down!? Whenever something happens in the estate, when did you not have to personally deal with it?” Xue-shi’s voice suddenly became shrill and seemingly hysterical: “Since we’re splitting up, everything needs to be made clear. Daughter-in-law has another question: since mom is giving everything to third brother, does that mean mom plans on living with third brother in the future?”
This stone caused a thousand ripples.
Yan Qu and Chen-shi couldn’t sit still any longer, their expressions cramped.
They were merely thinking of how to survive in the future. They actually didn’t think about the matter of the old madam. Xue-shi’s words made them start thinking. The most important question regarding the estate was now placed in front of everyone.
Xue-shi wiped her tears and said: “Eldest lord was planning on bringing mom with him and showing his filial piety in taking care of her. Now that our family doesn’t even know if we can survive, we naturally can’t let mom suffer along with us.”
No one spoke. The room was scarily silent.
Yan Qu wanted to speak a few times but was stopped by Chen-shi.
The old madam started thrashing around on the bed again, letting out a high-pitched noise.
This noise sounded a little frightening, like a cat yowling. In the silent room, it was even more horrifying. Yan Qu and Chen-shi felt cold sweat trickle down their backs.
Matron Zhao hurriedly went over. She knew the old madam was calling her to interpret.
The old madam’s way of expressing herself had startled everyone. She made low and high pitched noises with her throat. When she got to a difficult part, she would move her paralyzed body around on the bed and look extremely fierce. It was clear she struggled to communicate with others. Regardless, no one was able to understand. But from Matron Zhao’s nodding and wiping her brows, it seemed she could understand.
After a long, long while, Matron Zhao finally stood up and looked at the crowd. She wanted to speak but hesitated.
Matron Zhao didn’t speak and others naturally didn’t feel like responding. Yan Qu was held back by Chen-shi, Shen Yi Yao couldn’t be bothered and the eldest branch intentionally remained silent.
Everyone wanted to find a way out, but why would anyone want to offer a way for others?
Matron Zhao saw that no one was raising the topic. She could only stammer and start speaking. She spoke quite a lot, but with so many twists and turns no one could understand what she was saying. Seeming to realize what she was doing was useless, Matron Zhao closed her eyes and said: “The old madam means to say that after splitting up, she will be living with the second branch!”
This time Matron Zhao no longer tried to polish the words and make it sound nice. This naked intent was a sinister thought that couldn’t be covered up by eloquent words. There was no need for her to waste her time.
The old madam had long since made her plans. Everything would be left to her own son while forcing Shen Yi Yao to carry the responsibilities. Of course, it didn’t matter if it was shouldered by Shen Yi Yao or the eldest branch. However, she felt that since Shen Yi Yao was wealthy, her days would be a little better with her. There was no need to let her daughter-in-law have it easy. She was supposed to go with old two anyway. Since old two was gone, Shen Yi Yao would naturally be the one taking care of her.
She had planned well but Xue-shi had popped out halfway. The old madam wanted to do it surreptitiously. She would first give the things to her younger son and then mention the other matter later. Unexpectedly, Xue-shi had made a fuss in front of everyone.
The old madam hated Xue-shi to death. However, it was hard to dismount after getting onto the tiger. She was forced to air out her plans.
She knew that this wouldn’t be as easy as she had hoped before. However, using “filial piety” as pressure, she believed Shen Yi Yao wouldn’t dare refuse.
Since Matron Zhao had already said the hard part, the remaining words were naturally easier.
She continued to say: “The old madam means to say that she had always lived with the lord marquis. Now that he is no longer here, she naturally has to take his place in managing the second branch and keep an eye on those young children. Otherwise, the lord marquis won’t be able to rest in peace.”
These words were really extremely shameless. She was now considering Yan Ting’s spirit? Why didn’t she think of him and the second branch’s children when splitting the assets? To put it plainly, she didn’t want to burden her own son and didn’t want to let Shen Yi Yao have it easy.
Shen Yi Yao directly laughed in anger.
She couldn’t figure out why this old madam hated her so. Despite hating her, she still insisted on tying herself together with her!
Everything that happened just now made Shen Yi Yao feel many things. It also overturned her worldview. She suddenly understood her daughter’s previous words. Cheap people loved to ask for a foot after getting an inch. If you were too soft, they would come to your door and bully you. This was because they knew you wouldn’t do anything to them. Only by making them hurt and scared would they consider whether they could accept the consequences next time.
In the past, Shen Yi Yao didn’t like Yan Yan’s personality. She felt she was too unyielding and merciless. She was always overbearing. After all that has happened since then, she realized that her personality was a result of her circumstances. As her mom, she was too soft which forced her daughter to become a prickly hedgehog.
She suddenly felt like tearing up, with many indescribable emotions in her heart.
She raised her head and looked at Matron Zhao. Matron Zhao shivered at her bright gaze. She then turned to look at the old madam and slowly said one word at a time: “I’m afraid I will have to disappoint mom. My father feels it’s not appropriate for a widow to be living outside. He plans to bring me and Ah Mo back to live with my maternal family.”
The old madam directly glared at Shen Yi Yao. Her turbid eyes seemed to be about to pop out. Her throat made an urgent high-pitched sound before she started babbling abuse.
Chen-shi suddenly stood up: “Second sis-in-law, how can you say that? What will mom do in the future?”
Shen Yi Yao looked at her anxious face and smiled: “Then we’ll have to trouble third brother and third sister-in-law. This daughter-in-law feels very assured with you guys taking care of mom.”
Xue-shi crowded over and said with a smile: “Third sis-in-law has always been filial. As the eldest sis-in-law, I also feel assured. After all, third brother and sis-in-law are close with the old madam. Her own son and his wife will naturally do their best in taking care of her.”
Shen Yi Yao stood up: “Daughter-in-law still has some matters to deal with and stuff to tidy up. I will take my leave first.”
After speaking, she turned and left.
Xue-shi also used the excuse of having to tidy and forcibly pulled Yan Zhi away.
As for the old madam and the third branch’s reactions, no one bothered paid attention to them.
On the way back to the Yusheng Pavilion.
Xue-shi said: “The two from the third branch really came in with some timely assistance. They took the initiative to accept the inconvenience.”
The eldest branch had planned on seeing how the situation played out before acting. It was fine if they had to take in the old madam, but they would do their best to avoid taking the third branch. Who would have thought the third branch would take the initiative to jump out for the sake of some scraps. Xue-shi thus took the opportunity and ended up saying all sorts of things.
Actually, those words weren’t just for the old madam and the third branch. They were also for Yan Zhi and Shen Yi Yao.
The outcome proved it was extremely effective. Without mentioning Yan Zhi for now, at least Shen Yi Yao was firm. That’s right. Since Xue-shi didn’t care about her reputation, there was nothing they could do to her. Actually the hardest thing to get over wasn’t how others regarded you, but rather your own conscience.
Luckily, Shen Yi Yao wasn’t a fool and she understood Xue-shi’s sacrifice.
There were no fools or saints. Since they took her for a fool, why should she care about anything else!?
Seeing Yan Zhi remain silent, Xue-shi’s eyes flashed and she said: “What? Still thinking about that matter? It’s not that we were heartless. You saw how the old madam and the third branch acted so decisively.”
Yan Zhi sighed. He wasn’t hung up over that matter, but just felt a little uncomfortable. Actually, thinking of it differently, it wasn’t a big deal. They got what they asked for. Those who planted melons got melons and those who planted beans got beans.
The old madam was naturally extremely not resigned. She made a ruckus twice afterwards.
However, Shen Yi Yao ignored her and didn’t even go to the Rongan Hall anymore. No matter what was said, her response was always one word: busy.
She really was busy. She was busy with packing.
Everything that needed to be taken was pretty much packed. Shen Yi Yao started arranging things to be sent out.
The old madam was truly panicked now. Matron Zhao was sent over several times. Chen-shi had come once as well. Yan Qu was a man, and since the previous matter was truly a little excessive, he was too embarrassed to come. However, Shen Yi Yao didn’t meet with them. She wasn’t even willing to maintain the last bit of appearances.
With the help of the Zhenguo Duke Estate and the fourth prince estate, all of Shen Yi Yao and Yan Mo’s personal belongings were soon shipped out. There were only a few bits and pieces left as well as the larger pieces of furniture.
After leaving the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, Shen Yi Yao temporarily moved into the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s Tranquil Garden. She was newly widowed after all and was supposed to be in mourning. It ultimately wouldn’t be good to make a fanfare about moving back to her maternal household. The Tranquil Garden was within the Zhenguo Duke Estate, but it had its own doors and could count as an independent residence. The Zhenguo Duke Estate’s deterrence would prevent the old madam’s side from making any trouble.
The matter was settled. Seeing the madam’s actions, Concubine Wu and Concubine Lan both started panicking.
If the madam left, how would they survive in the future? The second branch still had Yan Hong, Yan Chan and the fifth young master Yan Qing. What would happen to them? The madam was clearly expressing that she didn’t care about anyone. The madam could return to the Zhenguo Duke Estate but it wasn’t possible for her to bring all the concubines and their children with her. Would the old madam care about them?
This made the others in the second branch feel terrified.
Concubine Wu had remained silent for several years. Even though Yan Chan was almost at the age of marriage, she didn’t show any sign of impatience. Now she was no longer able to sit still. She had previously gone to ask Shen Yi Yao for an audience at the Jinse Pavilion.
The moment she entered the room, she thudded to her knees.
She wore a dark cyan jacket with her black hair swept into a bun using a single hairpin. Her previously pretty self now looked aged and listless. She didn’t look her age at all.
She sobbed and cried as she spoke: “Madam, oh, no, miss, I beg you. I beg you to bring Ju Fang and the fifth miss with you. Ju Fang will serve you for the rest of her life. Ju Fang knows her wrongs, I’ve known it for a long time. Hopefully madam could tell that Ju Fang was sincerely trying to right my wrongs over these years, and bring this servant and the fifth miss away from here.”
Looking at Concubine Wu who was kneeling on the floor, Shen Yi Yao seemed to have recalled something.
It turns out she used to be called Ju Fang, not Concubine Wu?
But how did Ju Fang become Concubine Wu?
Oh, right. Back then when she gave birth to Ah Yan, she wasn’t able to get pregnant again in the years after that. The old madam inevitably revealed some displeasure in her words. Yan Ting would always console her, telling her not to overthink things. He said that he wasn’t in a hurry to get a son. But the more generous Yan Ting was, the more anxious Shen Yi Yao had felt.
Concubine Pei had expressed sympathy and came to comfort her daily. She was anxious about Shen Yi Yao’s anxiety and her thoughts were in line with hers as well. However, Shen Yi Yao still showed no signs. Afterwards, Concubine Pei suddenly got pregnant. After this happened, she still continued her previous actions and even showed some guilt. She said several times that she wanted to abort the fetus. She was afraid of giving birth to a boy and stealing the future young master’s spot.
Shen Yi Yao was truly moved back then. Whenever she felt the slightest hint of jealousy, she would feel very ashamed of herself. She felt was letting down her role as a woman. Thus, her personal maid Ju Fang was brought forward. This was because Concubine Pei had said they had to shut the old madam up.
Actually, after Shen Yi Yao snapped out of it, she wasn’t willing to see these people who reminded her of how foolish she used to be.
She didn’t hate these people, so she might as well just let them be. She didn’t expect Concubine Wu to come to her doors. Actually, she should have expected it. After all, Ju Fang had always been a smart one.
“Your wrongs? What wrongs did you commit?” Shen Yi Yao’s expression was calm and emotionless.
Concubine Wu raised her head and looked at her shamefully, saying while crying: “This servant shouldn’t have allowed Concubine Pei to threaten me back then and help her harm the madam! But this servant was also truly helpless. Concubine Pei had truly seized my weakness so I only helped her because I had no choice.”
Shen Yi Yao didn’t speak.
“This servant had thought to secretly tell the lord marquis back then to clear the madam’s name. Luckily the third miss is extraordinarily smart and saw through Concubine Pei’s sinister scheme, exposing her in front of everyone.”
Shen Yi Yao let out an “oh” and didn’t say anything else.
The room was scarily silent. Only the sounds of Concubine Wu’s occasional sobs could be heard.
“Madam, please forgive this servant. Are you willing to forgive this servant? If you forgive this servant, I can even die in peace!”
Shen Yi Yao silently sighed. She turned her gaze to Concubine Wu and her eyes were dark and heavy.
“Was that the only wrong you committed?”
Concubine Wu’s body suddenly turned rigid.
Concubine Wu is really good at enduring. Unfortunately she finally couldn’t hold out any longer.
The old madam’s thoughts were too optimistic. Unfortunately, she forgot even the weakest person still had some temper. Especially since Shen Yi Yao had things pretty much figured out. She just isn’t used to letting things get too ugly, and also isn’t used to embarrassing people. This has to do with how she does things. After being bullied by the old madam and the third branch, Shen Yi Yao also understood that cheap people shouldn’t be given any face.