Within the capital, the Jinyang Marquis’s Estate had fallen silent overnight.
But while they were silent, the people were still alive, and they still had to pass their days.
Ruan Zhan had fallen, his noble title stripped and the status passed down for many generations had perished in his hands. He truly couldn’t take such a major blow.
He remained bedridden for half a year before no longer being able to hold on.
Therefore, before Ruan Siming and Ruan Siyi could take off their mourning garbs for their mother, they had to put on new ones once again.
The brothers still had work to do, but they could only put it on hold to mourn the loss of their father. At this time, the two were at a loss. This was because they were very clear their jobs had been obtained due to the Jinyang Marquis’s face. Their mother had offended his majesty, and this mourning period would probably be never-ending.
However, a starving camel was still larger than a horse. In the past their family had quite a few businesses. If they two brothers were a bit more frugal, they could still have enough for the rest of their lives. Of course, this was Ruan Siyi’s own thoughts. Others thought differently.
After Ruan Zhan died, the concubines who had been suppressed by Tian-Shi in the past all came out of the woodworks, fussing about splitting the inheritance. The two people who cared about dignity encountered a bunch of people who didn’t, and could only split the inheritance.
They couldn’t even give less to anyone. Everyone knew the Ruan family had offended his majesty, and even Ruan Siyi’s in-laws didn’t dare interfere and manage things, let along that useless Yingguo Duke’s Estate. Therefore, they could only split it evenly amongst everyone. After everyone took a share, they had even less remaining.
Ruan Siming seemed to have gotten annoyed at the fuss, and after they were done splitting things he drove everyone who wasn’t part of his own family out. This included his own brother, Ruan Siyi.
Ruan Siyi didn’t say anything about it, took all his women and moved out to the residence that was allocated to him.
Qiao-Shi didn’t make a fuss and did whatever was needed. The family affairs weren’t handled by her, and it was someone else’s problem.
Ruan Siyi had four concubines and several chambermaids. Every one of them were pampered and spoiled, including Ruan Siyi himself, and they naturally purchased some servants. They lived as they had before, and before long, their income couldn’t cover their expenditures.
Actually, there wasn’t any income at all.
The dozens of people all needed to eat, and the silver grew less and less.
During the division of inheritance, he had also inherited two stores. Unfortunately, business wasn’t good at either one. Let alone make money, he even had to spend his own money on the stores. Ruan Siyi could only close the stores and sell them for silver.
After that silver was spent, he then realized the farmland he was allocated wasn’t good either and sold it off as well.
Qiao-Shi merely watched without saying anything.
Finally, everything that could be sold was sold, and all that remained were these few people and their two residences. Thus, the servants started getting sold off.
Without servants, those pampered people naturally weren’t used to it. As for Qiao-Shi, she shut her own doors and spent her days with Chun Tao and Matron Chen, not caring about the fallout.
Soon, people wrapped up their own jewelry and ran off. The most impressive one even stole the jade ornaments Ruan Siyi had kept for memories.
On this day, it was extremely quiet outside.
Qiao-Shi opened the door and saw Ruan Siyi curled up and crooked on a chair dressed in white.
She truly wanted to laugh loudly a couple of times, but she couldn’t do so at the moment.
“Lord husband, what’s wrong?”
Ruan Siyi raised his eyes and looked at her with a little surprise, “Why are you still here?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? This one is lord husband’s wife, and naturally has to be with lord husband.”
Ruan Siyi’s expression was complicated. He looked at her once more, disgust flashing across his eyes before being covered up.
Qiao-Shi turned a blind eye to it, “Lord husband, where’s everyone in the house?”
“They left, they all left…..”
Ruan Siyi stood there soullessly before walking into his room in a daze.
Ruan Siyi felt he had slept for a long time. When he opened his eyes, he saw her stocky neck and slightly kindhearted and honest expression.
“Lord husband, are you hungry?” Qiao-Shi lifted a bowl of porridge over as she spoke. “This one made some porridge.”
The plain porridge exuded the sweet smell of rice. Ruan Siyi’s stomach rumbled with hunger.
How long has it been since he last ate?
Before he slept, it had been over a day. He also didn’t know how long he had slept for.
Qiao-Shi fed him one spoonful at a time. In his haste to swallow, he choked on the food. Qiao-Shi hurriedly put the bowl down and wipe his mouth with a handkerchief, patting his back to help him catch his breath.
Ruan Siyi saw felt her touch and wanted to shy away, but endured it.
Once he caught his breath, Qiao-Shi continued feeding him and Ruan Siyi ate silently without speaking.
“This one went and took a look in the kitchen. There was only white rice, so I could only make porridge and let lord husband suffer some grievance. But it’s ok, I had Chun Tao go pawn off her jewelry. Once she gets some silver there will be tastier food at home.” Qiao-Shi chattered with her head lowered, and turned a blind eye towards Ruan Siyi’s complicated expression.
After he finished eating, Ruan Siyi spoke for the first time since he woke up. “You should leave. I want to sleep for a bit.”
Ruan Siyi slept continuously for several days. During this time, his meals were all brought into his room by Qiao-Shi.
On the fifth day, Ruan Siyi finally stepped out of his room and into the courtyard. The sunlight was a little dazzling and he couldn’t help but shield his eyes.
Only after a while could he see his surroundings clearly.
Qiao-Shi was sitting there plucking vegetables. Matron Chen was doing laundry and Chun Tao was fetching water from the well.
He had never seen this side of Qiao-Shi, who sat on the low stool and plucked the vegetables. Perhaps it was also because he never seriously looked at her. This was the first time he took the initiative to do so.
This was a woman he had hated a lot in the past. This was a Qiao-Shi who wore a silk garment and was doing manual labor.
Suddenly, there was violent knocking on the door. Matron Chen put the clothes in her hands down and wiped her hands before opening the doors.
“Who are you people?”
“Move, old woman. We’re looking for Ruan Siyi, Fourth Master Ruan!”
Along with the sound of voices, several large men barged inside.
Qiao-Shi was startled and hid behind Ruan Siyi.
“Fourth Master Ruan, when are you going to pay back the gambling money you owe? The due date has already passed!”
Ruan Siyi froze, and vaguely recalled that he had felt gloomy a few days ago and ended up going to his frequented casino for a few rounds of gambling. In the end, he grew red-eyed from losing and ended up borrowing silver from the casino’s boss.
“Lord husband, you borrowed money for gambling?”
A tiny voice sounded behind him.
Ruan Siyi blushed.
He did gamble, but not very frequently. He also never borrowed money. This was the only time….
“How much money did my lord husband borrow from you?” The woman behind him walked out and asked.
“Not much, not much. Only a thousand five hundred taels of silver.”
“So much?” Qiao-Shi said in astonishment.
Ruan Siyi snapped out of it, “I clearly only borrowed a thousand.”
The burly man in charge chuckled, “Fourth Master Ruan shouldn’t forget about interest. You’ve exceeded the payment date by so many days, so it’s naturally a thousand five hundred now.”
“This is essentially robbery!”
“Fourth Master Ruan shouldn’t put it like that. We’re just common folk trying to put food on our tables. You are the renowned Fourth Master Ruan, son of the Jinyang Marquis.”
Qiao-Shi spoke, “You guys come back two days later. We don’t have that many silvers on hand. We’ll come up with it and give it to you at that time.”
“This madam, you wouldn’t be trying to trick us, right?” That burly man’s face showed some doubt.
“Does this madam need to trick you? Just this residence is worth more than fifteen hundred!”
“Very well. We’ll be back in three days. Don’t let us brothers leave empty handed at that time.”
The group of men turned and left. One of them spat on the ground, “What Fourth Master Ruan!? Letting a woman speak for you, you’re not even worth as much as this daddy!”
Ruan Siyi’s blood immediately rushed to his head. He glared viciously at Qiao-Shi, and went back inside with a flick of his sleeves.
But no matter how angry he was, he still had to eat.
Lunch was served on a dining table. There were two dishes of vegetables with rice. Qiao-Shi saw that Ruan Siyi seemed to have calmed down.
After eating, Qiao-Shi discussed with him about selling this residence. After all, they didn’t have many people so they might as well move into somewhere smaller. Ruan Siyi didn’t have any objections and nodded in agreement.
In the afternoon, Ruan Siyi went to sell the residence. Qiao-Shi didn’t feel at ease and had Matron Chen tag along.
That night the two returned but the residence hadn’t been sold.
Such a large residence naturally couldn’t be sold off in a short amount of time, especially if the asking price was high. No one made any inquiries, and they failed to sell it the next day as well. On the third day, someone offered fifteen hundred taels of silver for it.
Ruan Siyi didn’t agree. This residence’s market price was around twenty-five hundred. His bottom line was two thousand taels. It would be a huge loss to sell at fifteen hundred.
That person didn’t haggle and left right away. Ruan Siyi was a little panicked, but wanted to maintain his dignity. Matron Chen chased after him and struck up conversation. After some haggling, the final price was set at eighteen hundred.
Looking at the setting sun and thinking that they had to return the money tomorrow, Ruan Siyi could only helplessly agree.
After going through the proceedings at the authorities with the buyer, Ruan Siyi held eighteen hundred silver worth of banknotes as he left the government office. As he passed by a restaurant, he recalled how they had only eaten crude meals these days and went inside to order a feast.
He paid over forty silver for it. Matron Chen wanted to speak but hesitated.
After Ruan Siyi returned, he told Qiao-Shi the residence had been sold for eighteen hundred and he had agreed on moving out three days later. They would have to find another residence in these couple of days.
Qiao-Shi nodded. At this time, the feast was delivered.
Looking at the table of delicacies and finding out about the cost, Qiao-Shi frowned but didn’t say anything.
“The food these days has been too simple.” Ruan Siyi grabbed his chopsticks and didn’t look at Qiao-Shi. “You should eat some more.”
Qiao-Shi’s eyes flashed. She lowered her head and ate.
The next day, the people from the casino came once again. This time they said fifteen hundred wasn’t enough, and wanted eighteen hundred.
No matter how much he cared about dignity, Ruan Siyi still got into an argument with them. Those men weren’t good with their mouths but they were certainly good with their fists. They surrounded him and beat him to the floor.
Qiao-Shi screamed and cried, giving them all the banknotes. She pulled out her own hairpin and threw it over to make up for the rest. Only then did those people toss the creditor’s contract over before leaving with the silver.
Ruan Siyi was badly battered as he yelled: “Why did you give them all the silver? They’re extorting us.”
Qiao-Shi sobbed quietly, “What if you get beaten by them? What should we do then? Silver isn’t as important as people……”
The remaining silver had been given away and they had to move out three days later. But they didn’t even have money for another residence.
Ruan Siyi sat in his room as he heard Qiao-Shi and Matron Chen discussing outside.
“……Now isn’t the time to worry about dignity. Matron, go with Chun Tao and pawn off all my jewelry, and use the money to buy a smaller residence. It only has to fit the four of us.”
“Madam, but you only have those few pieces left…..”
Qiao-Shi was silent for a moment before saying: “We don’t have any other choice now…..”
“…..Madam, you shouldn’t have used your own dowry to cover the pavilion’s expenses back then. Now, you don’t even have any personal savings left…..”
“….Enough, it’s too late to bring this up now. Go with Chun Tao in a bit, see how much silver you can get. Then we can consider our next steps…..”
“…..How about, madam goes back home and asks the lord for help….”
Qiao-Shi sobbed a few times and said sorrowfully: “Dad said he won’t recognize me anymore, unless I leave my husband…..”
The voices outside gradually faded but Ruan Siyi was about to go insane….
What on earth is happening with the world?!