Before long, Grandma Wang was brought over.
Along the way, her face was still full of confusion. Since when did she have a nephew?
That simple-looking fellow charged over the moment he saw Grandma Wang. He grabbed her hands, “Old aunt! Ah’ve missed you to death.”
“It’s Da Tian, aunt…..”
This fellow loudly proclaimed their relationship while the two gatekeepers impatiently went around the corner to divide up the silver.
“You are Granny Wang right? Our mistress had me come take you out of here.” The fellow quickly said in a quiet voice to Grandma Wang.
Grandma Wang was wise and experienced, and quickly caught on. She replied in an equally low voice: “Your mistress is?”
“She had me pass on a message: do you still remember the little Xiao Hua from back then?”
“Granny, we don’t have time to say too much. Someone probably came to you a few days ago. My mistress is afraid that you might be in danger, and had me come take you away.”
“Do you think I can leave in this situation?”
The two gatekeepers seemed to have trouble coming to an agreement and started arguing in the corner. It was possible to hear the commotion.
That fellow smiled brightly, “Since they are greedy, I’ll just stuff them some more silver. It shouldn’t be a problem. If it still doesn’t work, I’ll snatch you away.”
Grandma Wang however had more thoughts about it. “Can you tell me what the danger is?”
That fellow glanced at the corner and quickly said: “It’s hard to describe in a short amount of time. Basically Tian-Shi is trying to use some smoke and mirrors to blackmail my mistress. Because you were close with her, mistress is afraid you’d be implicated…..”
At this moment, a voice suddenly rang out from inside.
“Where is Grandma Wang?”
“This—-someone came to find her. It’s her nephew.”
That voice sounded a little frustrated, “Then what are you guys doing here?”
The sound of footsteps rang out.
“I’ve fooled Tian-Shi by acting muddled in my old age. I’m in the small kitchen, people bringing firewood are able to meet with me.”
That fellow froze, and then urged in a muffled voice: “…..old aunt, come home. Mah dad is still waiting for you.”
“You’re so impetuous, child. Wait for your old aunt to go and pack….”
“Grandma Wang, what are you packing for?” Manager Qian walked out, asking with narrowed eyes.
Grandma Wang opened her vacant old eyes wide and said beaming: “Packing my clothes. My eldest nephew is here to buy my freedom and take me back home.”
“Who said you could be redeemed?”
“Manager, how can you say that? Ah’ve given ten taels of silver. How can you stop mah aunt from returning with me?”
“Who accepted your silver? I didn’t see any of it!”
“That person accepted the silver. Handed it over just now, ten taels.” That fellow pointed with his rough finger at the gatekeeper who snatched his silver.
That gatekeeper gave the fellow a glare, and awkwardly smiled at Manager Qian, “Manager, this was a little incentive he gave to see the person…..”
That fellow immediately disagreed, yelling loudly: “Why do you city folk spout so much crap. Ah’ve said that ah’ve come to buy aunt’s freedom. Since you’ve taken the money, doesn’t that mean you’ve agreed?”
“You’re the one spouting crap….”
Manager Qian seized the silver from the gatekeeper and threw it to the fellow. “Alright, there’s your silver back. Hurry and get lost. This Grandma Wang is not allowed to be redeemed.”
“Based on what! Why won’t you let mah aunt go? She’s already so old, what’s wrong with redeeming her freedom? There is no law stating that old grandmas can’t be redeemed.”
“Since she was sold to our Jinyang Estate, it’s up to us to decide. If we don’t agree, there’s nothing you can do. Grandma Wang, hurry and go back to the small kitchen. Don’t wander about.”
The fellow refused to let go of Grandma Wang’s hand. “You promised back then to let mah family redeem her once we saved up ten taels of silver. How can you refuse us now?”
Manager Qian didn’t know of any past agreements. She only knew that she had to carry out the instructions given to her by her superiors.
“Pshh. You also know that was back then. How many buns could you buy with silver back then? How many can you buy now? Let me tell you, it’ll take twenty taels of silver to redeem this old grandma now!”
“Heh, you black-hearted bunch. Back when mah aunt was young she was worth only ten taels, but now the price increased to twenty after she’s old? Are you still human?”
“This momma is precisely black-hearted. What are you going to do about it? Come redeem this old grandma after saving up twenty taels of silver!”
Even if you had twenty taels we still wouldn’t hand her over! Of course, these words weren’t spoken out loud by Manager Qian.
Grandma Wang’s hand shook from anxiety as she stood on the side. Even after saying a bunch of niceties to Manager Qian, she still wouldn’t let her go. The fellow was also anxious, his bowl sized fists clenched as he felt like beating people up. Grandma Wang held him back.
Grandma Wang wiped away her tears, “Da Tian, how about you go back first. Don’t come for your old aunt anymore. Your aunt is already so old, and isn’t worth it. Use the money to buy some good food for the family’s children.”
“Go back and tell your dad this old aunt is doing very well here. They provide meals and have even made proper funeral arrangements…..”
“Hurry and go home. Don’t get hung up on this old aunt. It’s enough knowing you guys are doing well. We don’t have any money or influence, and cannot offend the marquis’s estate. Don’t do anything foolish.”
That fellow’s face was sullen and he gave Manager Qian a harsh glare before stomping his foot and leaving.
Seeing Ding Xiang coming over from afar, Zhao Da walked up and grabbed her hand, finding a secluded place to talk.
“How did everything go?”
Zhao Da smiled bitterly and said: “I’ve done as concubine requested and personally went, but that side wasn’t willing to release the person. I only managed to speak briefly with Granny Wang before someone hurried over and drove me away. It seems like someone in the estate has already given instructions not to release Granny Wang. Therefore, they won’t let anyone redeem her.” What a waste of his performance in acting the foolish bumpkin.
Seeing Zhao Da’s worried appearance, Ding Xiang comforted: “It’s fine, don’t put it to heart. Concubine has already said that they will probably be on guard, and wouldn’t let her go that easily.”
Zhao Da nodded: “That Granny Wang is old, but she’s still extremely sharp. She said she’s fooled Tian-Shi by acting muddled. I think there shouldn’t be any problems.”
He described everything in detail so Ding Xiang could report back.
After Ding Xiang finished listening, she nodded, “Then I’ll go back first. The concubine is waiting for the news.”
She had just turned to leave when she was pulled into Zhao Da’s arms.
“Why the hurry to leave? Let’s talk a little more. Ding Xiang, I’ve missed you recently. Did you miss me?”
Ding Xiang turned red, and only spoke after resisting for a while, “I did.”
“I’ve missed you so much.” Sighing, Zhao Da pulled her in for a kiss but Ding Xiang hurriedly held him off.
“We’re in the palace. Don’t mess around.”
“But I’ve really missed you too much. Just when can we get married? I’ve been waiting an eternity.” Seeing that Ding Xiang didn’t intend on letting him continue, Zhao Da released his grasp with a disappointed look.
Ding Xiang saw his pitiful appearance, and after glancing around she quickly gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Don’t be anxious, it should be very soon. Wait until this situation is done and I’ll ask the concubine for her blessing.”
“Really?” Zhao Da felt his cheek and asked with a foolish smile.
“Of course.” Ding Xiang glared at his hopeless appearance, but still felt some sweetness in her heart.
“You know all my bros are always frequenting the brothels, and I’m the only one staying behind. I’m waiting for you. I’m truly missing you too much….” As he spoke, Zhao Da seemed a little aggrieved.
“You fool, don’t say anymore. I understand.” Ding Xiang blushed and stomped her feet, interrupting his words. She then said softly: “Don’t worry, I’ll ask for concubine’s blessing soon.”
“How soon is soon?”
Ding Xiang thought a little, “Probably after the New Year.”
“Alright, but you have to remember your words. When the time comes, don’t go telling me that the concubine needs you here and there.” Zhao Da complained.
“I know. Then I’m leaving first. Can’t stay out too long.”
After speaking, Ding Xiang slipped away, leaving Zhao Da rubbing his cheek as he giggled foolishly at the thought of being married next year.
Ding Xiang was dazed the entire way back to the Chenxi Palace. She only snapped out of it after standing in front of Xiao Hua.
“Ding Xiang, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, concubine. I went to meet with Zhao Da just now…” Following which, she passed on Zhao Da’s words in detail.
After listening, Xiao Hua furrowed her brows.
She had planned on cutting off any problems in advance, but it seems the situation wasn’t going to be quite so simple. If Tian-Shi was truly afraid, she wouldn’t be watching an old woman so tightly. Yet if she wasn’t afraid, why were there no signs of movement?
She turned back and saw Ding Xiang standing with her head lowered. Xiao Hua’s gaze fell on her snow-white earlobes which had a hint of red. She suddenly smiled, “Alright, I got it. Help me thank Vice-Commander Zhao.”
Seeing the concubine’s meaningful gaze, Ding Xiang was confused at first. When she followed her gaze and felt her ears, she remembered what Zhao Da just did and her face turned red.
“Concubine, this servant will take her leave first.” After speaking, she covered her ear and hurriedly left with her head lowered.
After a while, Chun Cao came in.
“Concubine, have you noticed something?”
Chun Cao was seventeen now, and was a bright-eyed and good looking young lady. Having stayed by Xiao Hua’s side for five years, she had become quite sharp and steady. However, her liveliness had never changed. Perhaps due to their special relationship, she dared to occasionally act coy with Xiao Hua. This often gave Xiao Hua the feeling she was like a younger sister.
Of course, Xiao Hua wasn’t that much older herself, only nineteen. But Chun Cao had been twelve when they met, and Xiao Hua had watched her grow up. Therefore, her feelings for her were naturally different from others. Of course, she also felt close to Ding Xiang and Ding Lan, but it wasn’t quite the same.
“Oh, you. Such a sense of curiosity.”
“It’s because this is big sis Ding Xiang we’re talking about. Chun Cao wouldn’t care so much if it were anyone else.” Chun Cao wrinkled her nose cutely.
Xiao Hua knew about Ding Xiang and Zhao Da, including how they would occasionally meet up. But she only knew today that the two were already so intimate.
It seems that Ding Xiang’s matter couldn’t be delayed any longer. After all, she had been with her for many years, and Xiao Hua still remembered her own words back at the East Yuling alley. Ding Xiang wasn’t young anymore.
Thinking of this, Xiao Hua instructed: “Go call Ding Xiang and Ding Lan over.”
They soon arrived.
“The two of you have been with this seat for quite a few years now, more than four years….” Speaking to this point, the memories of their little interactions over the years flashed through Xiao Hua’s mind, “This seat has never forgotten your loyalty. You aren’t young anymore. Vice-Commander Zhao and Ding Xiang’s relationship had almost formed back at the East Yuling alley, but was delayed a long time due to moving to the capital.”
She let out a deep breath, and said with a smile: “Although this seat is reluctant to let you go, I won’t selfishly hold you back your entire life. Ding Xiang, this seat has made arrangements regarding your matter. The marriage is set for next month. As for Ding Lan, let this seat know if you have a suitable partner in mind. Otherwise, this seat can also help you pick someone.”
“Enough, enough. This is a good thing, you shouldn’t cry.” Xiao Hua wiped her own eyes with her handkerchief and then turned to Ding Lan: “What are your plans?”
“This servant doesn’t want to get married for now, and will remain by concubine’s side.”
Xiao Hua muttered, “Tell me whenever you want to leave and marry. Women cannot delay in this matter. After all, marriage and giving birth is the orthodox path. Although you haven’t reached the age of release yet, this seat can make the decision to set you free. Don’t have any misgivings.”
“That’s not it. This servant understands concubine’s kind intentions, but merely hasn’t thought about it yet. Once this servant has some thoughts, I will honestly tell concubine about it.” Ding Lan said.
“That’s fine. Ding Xiang, congratulations. You have to live well once you’re out.”
Ding Xiang had long since started crying. “Concubine, this servant will definitely be well.”
“If Vice-Commander Zhao bullies you, come to the palace and tell me. I will definitely mediate for you.”
“Thank you concubine.”
Xiao Hua’s eyes were burning. Seeing Ding Xiang cry like this, she felt extremely reluctant in her heart.
“Enough, enough. Why are you crying? This is a good thing, a blessing. Everyone stop crying. Ding Xiang, you go tell Vice-Commander Zhao in case he starts saying secretly that this seat refuses to let you go.”
Ding Xiang laughed through her sobs, both embarrassed and shy.
Zhao Da never expected that his marriage had already been arranged during this period of forbidden love. Of course, this was a topic for the future.