Yan Ting who sat in the carriage had an unclear expression on his face. Some indescribable feelings arose in his heart. He buried his face in his hands and let out a howl like a wounded beast.
Actually the household’s situation was something he had expected. Along with his death, the household had fallen apart. But being able to imagine it and seeing it with his own eyes were two different things. Yan Ting’s obsession from a young age had been to restore the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s glory and allow it to continue for many generations.
This obsession had started when he was still a child. His dad had held his hand and pointed at the large golden words engraved upon the doors, saying “dad’s health isn’t good and everything will depend on you in the future.” This was buried deep in his heart. After over two decades of effort, not only did he have nothing to show for it, he even managed to lose the estate….
A long, long time passed. Xu Xiang Rong looked at the side of Yan Ting’s face. Only after seeing him recover his calm did he have the carriage driver take them away.
Yan Ting saw that he was looking at him and raised his head, saying expressionlessly: “Don’t worry, I’m not a fool I know that I’m already a “dead person”.”
As he lifted his head, a scar on his face was revealed. This scar started from the corner of his left eye and ran under his left ear. From the right, Yan Ting was still a handsome man despite looking a little worn and weak. However, he looked sinister like a yaksha from the left.
The day Yan Ting fell from the cliff, he had planned on dying. Unexpectedly, he had awoken and found out he was rescued. At that time he was heavily injured. Many of his bones were fractured and his legs were broken. He was completely out of it and didn’t know how much time had passed. After becoming a little more conscious, he realized it was Xu Xiang Rong who had saved him.
Why did you save me?
At that time Yan Ting had truly wanted to die so he leapt from the cliff. He knew that Shen Ding definitely wouldn’t let him off, but also because he was in despair. After working hard for so many years, it was all in vain. Even all his thoughts and actions were overturned, as though he was just a joke. He was a huge joke from head to toe. He flaunted his intelligence, but was actually a jumping clown.
Yan Ting didn’t want to live. He felt his own existence wasn’t worth anything. He didn’t eat, didn’t cooperate with the treatment. This lasted until Xu Xiang Rong told him about the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s recent situation.
“Don’t you feel your current state is extremely laughable? A grand man like yourself is actually acting like a woman who cannot endure any shock. Stand up if you’re a man. Go back and take a good look. Then, bide your time until you can snatch everything back one day….”
Yan Ting’s wounds were too serious. By the time he recovered enough to take a carriage, the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s inscription had already been taken off and the place was empty.
“Your brother and mom are living in Hengshui Alley. Do you want to go take a look?”
Yan Ting froze and shook his head: “No need. Since we cannot see each other, why go take a look?” After a pause, he said with a complicated expression: “Thank you.”
Xu Xiang Rong didn’t speak and merely smiled.
A month after the third prince’s wedding, the fifth prince Luo Jing also got married.
The third prince’s wife was naturally chosen carefully by Senior Concubine Xu. She was the Lin household’s principal daughter. The Lin household was a major influential clan. Although the third consort was only Senior Minister Lin’s distant niece, Senior Concubine Xu had still spent a lot of effort to forge this connection to the official.
Yan Yan had seen the third consort Lin-shi before. She was timid, respectful and delicate. Walking next to the sturdy third prince made people feel a little unbearable. It was like a beast being matched with a little rabbit.
The fifth consort was a daughter from the empress’s Xiao clan. She was the principal daughter of a concubine’s branch and Empress Xiao’s niece. She was listed under the Xiao clan’s second branch’s name and was matched with the fifth prince.
After a prince got married, they had to go pay respects to Emperor Xi and Empress Xiao at the Fengqi Palace the next day. The other princes and consorts would be present as well. It could be called a family gathering.
When the third prince got married, Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan made a trip to the palace. They did the same for the fifth prince’s wedding this time.
The fifth consort was someone who looked rather dignified and magnanimous. Her entire demeanor was reminiscent of someone from the Xiao clan. The husband and wife kowtowed to Emperor Xi and Empress Xiao, toasted them with tea and received bestowals. Empress Xiao had a dignified smile and spoke a few words regarding the art of being a wife to Xiao-shi.
Afterwards they met the various brothers and sisters-in-law. The fifth prince wasn’t able to speak and merely stood by Xiao-shi’s side and saluted the people with her. When Yan Yan put her gift in the fifth consort’s hands, she saw her own man smile rather mockingly.
After the event, the various princes and consorts went their separate ways. Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan prepared to leave the palace.
After getting on the carriage, Yan Yan said: “Why did you smile so weirdly when looking at fifth sis-in-law?”
Luo Huai Yuan’s eyes flashed and he said doubtfully: “Did I? I was spacing out earlier. You were probably mistaken.”
Yan Yan declined to comment.
She naturally didn’t understand Luo Huai Yuan’s current mood. Every time he saw his ally from his past life, Luo Huai Yuan couldn’t help let his mind wander.
He vaguely remembered in his past life that old fifth had always been extremely well-behaved. Even after leaving for his vassal state, he remained a good kid. Unfortunately, that guy Luo Jin was vicious and merciless. He didn’t even let the impaired old fifth off. As for the fifth prince Luo Jing’s death, despite it being orchestrated by Luo Jin, it was at the hands of Xiao-shi.
This was why Luo Huai Yuan had a weird expression when looking at her. He just couldn’t tell Yan Yan about it.
As he spaced out, Luo Huai Yuan couldn’t help reveal a dull expression.
Some things had changed from his past life while other things remained the same. Would the ending be the same as before?
No matter what, for his and Yan Yan’s sake, he had to plan properly.
After the third and fifth princes’ weddings, the second prince Luo Jin no longer had an excuse to remain in the capital.
The Ministry of Rites announced the second prince’s vassal title and his vassal state. The second prince was conferred as the Jin Prince, and his vassal state was the Jin Province. The Jin Province was a fertile place and has always been wealthy. It had to be said Emperor Xi was rather biased towards the second prince.
After the vassal state was settled, the second prince chose an auspicious day to depart. This delayed things for another month. By the time the Jin Prince left, it was already July.
Afterwards, the plans were made for the third prince’s vassal title and state. It seemed that after the second prince’s departure, Emperor Xi had decided to arrange things for the rest of the princes. Not only did the third prince’s vassal state and title get settled, even the fourth prince Luo Huai Yuan’s had come as well.
The third prince was conferred the Qi Prince and his vassal state would be called the Qi Province.
Like his past life, Luo Huai Yuan became the Yun Prince and his state was the Yun Province
Although they were all conferred as princes, their different positions in Emperor Xi’s heart could be seen based on their vassal states. The Qi Province was fertile like the Jin Province and wasn’t far from the capital. When it got to Luo Huai Yuan, things fell dramatically. Not only was it a cold place in the north, the Yun Province was also just slightly better than a place where birds wouldn’t shit.
However, with his past life’s experience Luo Huai Yuan wasn’t surprised. He knew there was someone worse off than him. In his past life, the fifth prince was sent to an even more remote location. It was a famously bitter and cold area.
The third prince soon left the capital. After all, he had exceeded the age as well, having had his coming-of-age ceremony this spring. Senior Concubine Xu had tried to delay it several times but wasn’t able to overcome the rules laid by the ancestors. Therefore, Empress Xiao’s faction was secretly smug recently.
Luo Huai Yuan’s coming-of-age ceremony was in three months, after which he would leave for his vassal state. This meant he could still remain in the capital for three more months.
Therefore, the two of them started preparing early. They packed up all the businesses in the capital that could be packed up, and had trusted people handle those that couldn’t be packed up.
The businesses and properties that came with Yan Yan’s dowry were mostly in the capital. She thus handed these over to her mom. She would feel more at ease with Shen Yi Yao watching over them.
Yan Yan had asked Shen Yi Yao and Yan Mo if they wanted to go to the Yun Province with them but Shen Yi Yao had refused. The Yun Province was far away and Yan Mo still had to continue his studies. Furthermore, Shen Yi Yao felt she should show some filial piety due to having worried her family for so many years.
Yan Yan didn’t object. She had heard Luo Huai Yuan say that the climate in the Yun Province wasn’t as nice as the capital’s. Furthermore, her grandparents were both old. Since she wasn’t able to stay by their side, it was good to leave her mom with them.
During this time, Xue-shi found a marriage for the fifth miss Yan Chan. The groom was someone who passed the provincial-level exam and his household was slightly well off. Shen Yi Yao looked it over and felt it was pretty good. After asking Yan Chan’s opinion, they settled the marriage.
This marriage couldn’t be counted as excellent. However, the Weiyuan Marquis Estate no longer existed and Yan Chan was a concubine born daughter who lost both her parents. Xue-shi could be said to have spent some effort to be able to marry her into such a household.
The wedding was set for October. Yan Yan naturally wouldn’t be in the capital anymore, but she wasn’t really close to this concubine born sister anyway. She left her congratulatory gift with Shen Yi Yao who would hand it over at that time.
After the eldest branch settled down, Yan Zhi obtained Luo Huai Yuan’s permission and made a trip to the Fu Province by himself. His plan was to head over by himself and bring his family over once things were stabilized. Xue-shi was naturally reluctant to part. However, he was ambitious and finally obtained an opportunity. He would naturally go seize it.
Xue-shi was efficient and wasn’t the gloomy sort of person. After Yan Zhi left, she shut herself in and passed her own days, managing the little household. She supervised her sons and had them study properly. In her free time, she would at most go to the Zhenguo Duke Estate to chat with Shen Yi Yao.
After moving to the Zhenguo Duke Estate, Shen Yi Yao’s days were rather leisurely.
Yan Mo wasn’t a troublesome child, and his grandfather and uncle kept an eye on him. She didn’t need to worry too much. At first she didn’t dare leave the Tranquil Gardens since she was still in mourning. As time went by and no one in the Shen household minded, she gradually put it to the back of her head.
In her free time, she would chat with her mother and sister-in-law. They would do some needlework together or play a few rounds of Game of Leaves. She seemed to have returned to the happy days when she was still living in her maiden’s chambers.
Since her days were worry-free, her complexion improved. The current Shen Yi Yao looked radiant. If it weren’t for her not going out due to being in mourning, others wouldn’t believe she was a widow when looking at her.
During this time, Liu Shu Yi also got married. The groom was her childhood nemesis Chu Ming Chen. Yan Yan knew that their marriage had been arranged when they were very young. She just didn’t think they would delay so long before getting married. They naturally had their disputes during this time, but luckily the outcome was a good one.
People in mourning naturally couldn’t go congratulate them. Since she couldn’t be present for her only good friend’s wedding, Yan Yan could only gather all sorts of curious trinkets to supplement Liu Shu Yi’s dowry. Shen Yi Yao also sent a generous congratulatory gift over.
Everything seemed to be going well. Only after leaving the Weiyuan Marquis Estate was it clear that days could be spent a different way. Yan Yan had long since experienced this. Shen Yi Yao had shut both her eyes for a long time. She finally opened them one day and saw this beautiful world.
Everyone knew the third branch’s outcome. However, whether intentionally or not, they all did their best to forget about them.
Then, how were the people at the third branch doing?
The Hengshui Alley was located in the outer city. It couldn’t be called remote, and the people there were mostly minor officials or scholars. It could be called an innocent place.
The reason Chen-shi chose this place was because she preferred somewhere that wasn’t where snakes were mixed in with dragons.
When they moved out of the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, due to the lack of space and silver, Chen-shi had sold off most of the servants and only left a few behind.
Within the two compound pavilion, the old madam lived in the second compound’s main residence. The eastern wing was where the sixth miss Yan Xian and seventh miss Yan Juan stayed. The western wing was given to Concubine Lan and the fifth young master. Chen-shi and Yan Qu lived in the first compound’s main residence. The eastern wing there was given to Concubine Cui and the sixth young master. The western wing was where Yan Hong lived.
The small two-compound courtyard was filled to the brim.
It naturally couldn’t compare to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate. Back then they all had their own large pavilions. Grannies and maids would serve them the moment they got up. Now, not only were they cramped, their servants were also mostly gone.
The old madam had Matron Zhao and a little lass called Xiao Miao. The sixth and seventh misses naturally got better treatment since they were birthed by Chen-shi. The two had a granny and two little lasses. The fifth and sixth young master each had a little lass. Yan Hong was now grown up and was also a boy. He could only depend on himself for his daily routine. Chen-shi kept her wet nurse Matron Wang and a little lass. Because the third lord had to show up to his posting every day, he kept his two little errand boys. When they were free during the day, they were responsible for guarding the doors.
Things weren’t the same as before. In the past, the servants were each assigned specific roles. Now they no longer had the luxury. Apart from serving their own masters or mistresses, they also had to do some odd jobs around the place. For example, they didn’t have a granny cooking in the kitchen anymore. Everyone had to take turns making the food. Other examples included sweeping the courtyard and washing the masters and mistresses’ clothing and bedding.
Not only did the masters and mistresses, old and young, feel sullen, the servants felt the same way too. The more capable servants bought their own freedom. Those who were favored were released. The ones that remained were mostly incapable or had nowhere to go. Even if their days were sullen, they had to keep going.
What made them raise their eyebrows most was the Tian household, which was Concubine Cui’s maternal household.
Previously, Steward Tian had begged the third lord to release his entire family. The third lord didn’t make things difficult for them due to Concubine Cui and the sixth young master. Therefore, even though Chen-shi’s eyes rolled in anger, she couldn’t prevent it.
After Steward Tian’s family left the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, no one knew where they went. Only after the third branch settled down in the Hengshui Alley did they come visit in a carriage.
It turns out that the Tian family had some savings after working in the Weiyuan Marquis Estate their entire lives. After being released, they opened up a store and depended on it for a living. They were rather happy.
Of course, this was just what they said on the surface. It wasn’t clear if they had really saved up this money or if they had embezzled from the Yan household while working there. All they knew was that the Tian family looked extremely well off. Grandma Tian who usually wore plain clothing was now decked out in jewelry. She even had a little lass serving her. There was no need to mention Steward Tian. Concubine Cui’s brothers and their wives were all dressed in new clothes as well, and put on a lot of airs.
Others would call it confidence but to Chen-shi they were putting on airs!
Did they really think they changed skin and became lords? But this was truly the case. At least, they were much better off than the third branch.
They were here to give Concubine Cui some backing.
Concubine Cui’s eyes were squinted from smiling. She spent several days waving her handkerchief as she chatted with her family’s servants in the courtyard. What they chatted about was naturally the family’s business and how they were doing these days. This made the other servants envious and Chen-shi filled with anger. She cursed Concubine Cui secretly for being a bitch.
Although she cursed her, she could only do so secretly. Not only did she have to mind the sixth young master’s face, her relationship with Yan Qu was only harmonious on the surface. Her own maternal family was just a small official’s household. None of them were currently in the capital so she didn’t have much backing.
Since she couldn’t vent her anger on Concubine Cui, and also couldn’t vent it on Yan Qu or her daughters, Concubine Lan, the fifth young master and Yan Hong naturally became her punching bags. She didn’t show them any pleasant expressions and implied that they were freeloaders.
Yan Hong was a smart one and rarely showed himself. Chen-shi’s anger naturally couldn’t reach him. Therefore, Concubine Lan and the sixth young master became her targets. Concubine Lan had worked at a brothel in the past and naturally wasn’t a fool. She first chose to endure until she couldn’t hold it anymore and exploded.
One day, seeing Yan Qu at home, she made a ruckus in front of him and the old madam.
She first complained tearfully about how pitiful she and the sixth young master was. She cried about Yan Ting dying prematurely and leaving mother and son to depend on other people’s kindness. After crying she put on a show of wanting to commit suicide. After being stopped, she said tearfully that if the third madam really felt they were eyesores, give the sixth young master’s business back to them and they would move out. Even if they were bullied outside, it was better than being treated coldly here.
This immediately seized upon Chen-shi’s lifeline.
Things weren’t the same as before. The third lord only got several tens of taels as his official’s salary every year. Such a large household depended on the income from the businesses to eat and drink. The sixth young master was still young, and there were several years to go before he could be independent. How could Chen-shi be willing to have the silver in her hands leave?
She could only apologize and comfort them, saying that she had been overworked since the household encountered misfortune so she was inevitably irritable. She definitely wasn’t against the sixth young master and Concubine Lan shouldn’t overthink things.
Concubine Lan naturally didn’t really want to go off by themselves. As a weak mother with her child, the world outside was dangerous. She might be swallowed alive by someone someday. No matter how useless, Yan Qu was still an official and could provide some shelter. The reason she made a ruckus was just to tell everyone she and the sixth young master weren’t freeloading. The many people in this household depended on the sixth young master instead. She wasn’t demanding them be reverent, but they at least shouldn’t be used as punching bags. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to live properly in the future.
Due to Concubine Lan’s actions, everyone realized she shouldn’t be provoked. Many of the servants hadn’t realized that Yan Yan forcibly handed the deeds over to Yan Hong and Yan Qing. Only after this ruckus did they all know.
Suddenly, everyone looked at Yan Hong and Concubine Lan in a different light. In the past Yan Hong didn’t have anyone serving him and whenever Concubine Lan needed something the servants pushed the matter back and forth. Now things changed drastically. Whenever the two places needed something, servants from all over would come fawn upon them.
Therefore, there was still a social structure no matter how small the place. Yan Yan’s actions that day were truly effective. To put it plainly, she had given the two of them some backing to live off on.
Over by the old madam’s side.
The old madam had always been living large. Even when she was bedridden she was meticulously taken care of, let alone when she was still able to move.
Now, she had to move out of the Rongan Hall she had lived in for ten years, and move into this cramped and lowly place. Although the old madam’s residence wasn’t small, it was a little damp and stuffy. Along with the fact that she only had Matron Zhao and a little lass taking care of her, they would inevitably get overwhelmed with work, making the old madam feel extremely unbearable.
The old madam naturally made a fuss, but with their current situation it was no use. The entire household was already making her a priority. What else did she want?
She was naturally sullen and uncomfortable. Lying in bed all day made it hard to tell night from day. When she woke up, she would lie there grumbling incoherently. Matron Zhao and the little lass Xiao Miao who were in the same room couldn’t take it anymore. The sixth and seventh misses in the eastern wing who were pampered since birth slept lightly. They were often startled awake by the sounds of the old madam cursing, and would cry and complain to Chen-shi the next day, saying the noises grandmother made at night were too frightening.
The western wing’s Concubine Lan and her son didn’t seem to be disturbed. Actually, it wasn’t that Concubine Lan didn’t want to raise objections, but since they had no backing she naturally didn’t dare provoke the old madam. Initially they had been frightened awake. Afterwards, Concubine Lan found some cotton padding and stuffed it in their ears prior to sleeping. Although it wasn’t really comfortable, it allowed them to sleep peacefully.
Matron Zhao wasn’t young and had served the old madam her entire life. Although she called it serving, she merely used her mouth. All the manual labor had been done by others in the past. Now it was just her and Xiao Miao taking care of the old madam. Xiao Miao was young, her limbs slender. Flipping the old madam over and wiping her down could only be done by Matron Zhao.
Before long, Matron Zhao became visibly thinner.
Matron Zhao also had a son and a daughter-in-law. They used to work in the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, and after moving out she asked the old madam to release them. Matron Zhao was also one of the estate’s important figures. In the past she had embezzled quite a lot of silver. Her son borrowed her limelight and worked as a purchaser for the estate. This was naturally a job with many benefits. Therefore, after he was released, he bought a small courtyard and the couple started a small business. Their days were comfortable. Her son had wanted to take her to live comfortably several times, but was refused by her.
Matron Zhao was someone who repaid favors. She knew that everything they had was due to the old madam. Now that the old madam was in a tough spot, how could she bear to leave?
But no matter how loyal she was, it couldn’t withstand the daily grind. As the saying goes, there were no filial sons in front of long-term sickbeds. How could a servant endure?
Especially since Matron Zhao was now old and couldn’t hold on much longer. Furthermore, ever since the old madam left the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, her temper became even weirder. She always made trouble when she ate and drank. Not only did she mess up her clothes, her bedding was also dirtied.
In their current situation, the dirtied bedding had to be washed by Matron Zhao and Xiao Miao. Of course they could ask other servants to help, but those people couldn’t even finish their own tasks. Inevitably, there were times when they couldn’t clean it. Since they couldn’t let the old madam freeze, the two of them had to busy themselves daily.
Matron Zhao was tormented by the weird-tempered old madam on one side and constantly urged by her son and daughter-in-law on the other. She finally couldn’t endure and thought about leaving. When she had the thought, it could no longer be wiped away.
After a day of consideration, Matron Zhao fell ill.
Looks like previous chapter’s notes weren’t necessary. I thought the author would just leave it ambiguously. Also, spoiler in the author’s notes below.
Ah Yan and the little fatty will leave the capital soon. The old grandma is about to go bye bye.