Chapter 26

The Weiyuan Marquis Estate had three branches. Unlike the second and third branch, the first branch’s Eldest Lord Yan was not birthed by Old Madam Yan.

That year Old Madam Yan failed to get pregnant for two years after her marriage. When she finally got pregnant, she gave birth to a daughter. She could be said to have been at her wits end, and to avoid giving her mother-in-law an excuse to arrange people into her husband’s room, Old Madam Yan chose one of the honest maids by her side to fill in as the chambermaid.

That chambermaid’s luck was extremely good. She got pregnant soon after and ten months later gave birth to a boy. This was the Eldest Lord Yan Zhi. She was someone on “her side” and had also intelligently handed the baby over to Old Madam Yan right after he was born. Seeing this, Old Madam Yan didn’t think to get rid of the mother while keeping the child.

After all, it wasn’t like she herself couldn’t give birth and the Grand Xi also emphasized the principal line. A concubine borne child wouldn’t be able to go over her child’s head. Furthermore, the chambermaid’s entire family belonged to Old Madam Yan and their contracts were all in her hands. There was nothing for her to worry about.

Perhaps Yan Zhi brought some luck. Old Madam Yan soon became pregnant after raising him for a short time. This time she gave birth to a boy. This was the second son of the estate, Yan Ting.

After giving birth to Yan Ting, Old Madam Yan didn’t throw Yan Zhi to the side. She still raised him within her own home. At that time she had her in-laws to consider and needed to appear kind and virtuous.

Within two years, Old Madam Yan became pregnant once again. She gave birth to another boy, the third lord Yan Qu.

Although Yan Zhi was birthed by a concubine, Old Madam Yan had raised him herself the entire time. After all these years, there was bound to be some emotional attachment. Once he grew older, he recognized his principal mother first and concubine mother second. Furthermore, he remained lukewarm towards his own concubine mother.

This made Old Madam Yan very satisfied.

After her father and mother-in-law passed away in succession, her own husband became the Weiyuan Marquis. Then, after her husband fell seriously ill and passed away, her son Yan Ting became the Weiyuan Marquis. The Weiyuan Marquis Estate had two separate areas. Yan Zhi had a few sons with his concubines, and when the previous marquis passed away, they were all sent off to live in the auxiliary location. Their days were rather miserable.

Yan Zhi, as the oldest son in the family, still remained properly within the Weiyuan Marquis Estate. He naturally needed to be wise and keen sighted. The disturbances within the second branch recently did not escape the first branch’s eyes.

However, they weren’t the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s principal line, and were also smart people. They naturally wouldn’t get involved. Especially since the first branch’s Eldest Lord Yan wasn’t birthed by the old madam. Although the Eldest Madam Yan Xue-shi often noticed things, she pretended to be deaf and mute. She only appeared when it was appropriate, and remained invisible the rest of the time.

For example, now was the time their first branch should make an appearance.

“Hurry and go find the third miss to play. She just came back from the Zhenguo Duke Estate. It’s said there’s several carriages of good things. Go sweet talk your second aunt and you won’t be lacking in benefits.” Xue-Shi told her daughter Yan Ru.

Xue-shi had a long face, fine eyes and brows, as well as a pair of razor-thin lips. At this moment her face was all smiles and her eyes contained a sharp light.

The eldest miss Yan Ru hemmed and hawed. She was eleven this year and resembled Xue-shi, her eyes and brows were clear and faint, appearing rather elegant. Although she had the same thoughts in mind, having her intentions laid bare by her mom still made the young girl feel resentful.

“Mom, what are you talking about!?”

“Hehe, you child. Isn’t your mom doing this for your own good? Your second aunt has always been generous. If you manage to wrangle some satin over, mom can make you some nice clothes.”

The first branch wasn’t really living well in the Weiyuan Marquis Estate. After all, the eldest wasn’t the old madam’s biological son. Although he was nominally the eldest lord of the estate, no one inside or outside the estate treated this “eldest lord” as anyone significant. Although they received their allowances promptly, the amount was definitely not worthy of a merit-based noble household.

Things had been better when Shen Yi Yao managed the household. She was a foolish one and never discriminated. Once Concubine Pei took over, she kept a tight hold on finances. Take clothing as an example. Apart from receiving four sets of clothes for every season, they would have to pay with their own money if they wanted more.

Life in the estate was naturally luxurious. A set of clothes was at least worth dozens of silver taels. Xue-shi had always been frugal. How could she be willing to spend her own silver to make clothes or jewelry? Therefore, she set her sights on Shen Yi Yao’s generosity and frivolous nature. She would always send Yan Ru over to the second branch at this time.

“Take Yan Ling with you.” Xue-shi added before she left.

Although Yan Ru hemmed and hawed, she still took her concubine borne little sister over to the Jinse Pavilion.

***

After Yan Yan ordered for a letter to be sent to the Zhenguo Duke Estate, someone reported that the eldest miss and fourth miss had come.

She frowned and was a little displeased.

She knew what Yan Ru was here for. Every time she returned from her grandfather’s place, or whenever they gifted her and Ah Mo some good things, the first branch’s two misses would arrive faster than anyone.

Since her mom was a pushover, they couldn’t go amiss in flattering her. Her mom would then make the decision to gift them a few things. Then her mom would realize it wasn’t good to leave anyone out, and then gift everyone else some things as well.

There were a total of seven misses in the estate. The first branch had the principal line’s eldest miss Yan Ru and concubine borne fourth miss Yan Ling. The second branch, apart from Yan Yan, had Concubine Pei’s daughter second miss Yan Qian and Concubine Wu’s daughter fifth miss Yan Chan. The third branch had the sixth miss Yan Juan and seventh miss Yan Xia.

The Zhenguo Duke’s household was very generous, especially towards their cherished granddaughter (niece) Yan Yan. They would send over food, toys, clothes and jewelry every once in a while. But no matter how generous, it couldn’t compare to Shen Yi Yao’s frivolousness. There would often be things Yan Yan was extremely fond of, but she wouldn’t be able to keep any of it in the end.

Of course Yan Yan had made a fuss when she was younger. But Shen Yi Yao said that sisters have to be loving within a household. What could Yan Yan say about it? After all, she wasn’t selfish. If her mom said to give, she would give. But doing so repeatedly inevitably felt depressing.

Luckily Matron Xu had directly sent the things over to the Ningxiang Chambers this time without going through the Jinse Pavilion.

Yan Yan called Mei Xiang over and asked if everything had been put away. Mei Xiang understood her meaning and nodded.

At this time, Yan Ru came in with Yan Ling. One called out third big sis and the other called out third little sis, seeming very intimate.

“Third little sis has been gone for over half a month. Big sis came to see you after hearing you returned.”

Yan Ru maintained a shallow smile as she took a seat on the chair. She wore a fuchsia colored satin jacket paired with a verdant skirt. Her hair was pinned with a hairpin containing rice-grain sized pearls. She had a pair of white jade earrings, and had the elegant appearance of a wealthy household’s young lady.

Compared to Yan Ru who liked to maintain appearances, Yan Ling was much livelier. She was nine years old and looked exquisite and delicate. Her features were cute and her mouth was sweet. The moment she walked over, she intimately sidled over to Yan Yan’s side.

“Third big sis, I’ve missed you. Why did you only come back now? Is the Zhenguo Duke Estate a lot of fun? Take me with you next time.”

She wore a faded green silk patterned dress, her hair tied up in pigtails. A small velvet flower was pinned into her hair. The material of her dress looked very nice, but looking at the faded color, it was clear she had gotten it second hand after Yan Ru grew out of it.

Eldest Madam Yan Xue-shi was always shrewd and stingy, and never treated the concubine borne fourth miss too well. She always gave her Yan Ru’s old clothes, and Yan Ling’s allowance was also given to Yan Ru. This meant Yan Ru had new clothes everyday while Yan Ling received her hand-me-downs.

The whole estate knew about it but no one brought it up anymore. If anyone brought it up, Xue-shi would start crying about her hard life, saying how the eldest branch was poor and that the eldest lord’s salary and the estate’s allowance wasn’t enough for their expenditures. Didn’t she as the eldest lord’s madam also wear old clothing, let alone the concubine borne forth miss? This was truly the case. The only person who wore slightly brighter and newer clothes within the eldest branch was Yan Ru.

If that person kept mentioning it, Xue-shi would lick her lips and say: “how about you provide two pieces of cloth, and Yan Ling’s mother concubine will go make her some clothes?”

People had actually given the cloth before, but Yan Ling still wore the same things. After a while, no one brought it up anymore and acted like they didn’t see it. Since the eldest branch didn’t care about their faces, why would anyone else comment? Although they were annoyed at Xue-shi’s shoddy nature, they still needed to leave her some face.

Although Yan Ling was still young, she was a sharp one. Yan Yan had interacted with her several times and understood her quite well. She had a lot of insight at her young age. It wasn’t clear if she was taught by her mother concubine or by eldest aunt.

Yan Yan’s gaze was indifferent and she didn’t respond. Yan Ling also didn’t mind, sitting next to Yan Yan while grinning.

Mei Xiang and Mei Xue served tea and fruits. The two drank tea while chatting with Yan Yan.

Yan Yan had never liked spending time with these two, and therefore didn’t say much. Whatever they said, her expression remained dull and uninviting.

Since the two were still young, even if they made an effort to keep the conversation going, they still ran out of steam when the other party never responded.

Yan Ru gave Yan Ling a glance. She was of the principal line and naturally had to maintain her image. This was why she brought Yan Ling along. Things that didn’t befit her status would be left to Yan Ling. As for Yan Ling, she and her concubine mother both relied on the eldest madam for food. Even if she wasn’t willing, she still allowed herself to be used, though she was naturally sullen about it.

“Third big sis. I heard you’ve brought back quite a lot of fun things. What have you brought back? Can you take them out for your little sis to see?”

Yan Ling’s eyes were very large and her lashes were very long. She had a charming nose and pouty lips. She looked cute, innocent and unaffected, making it hard to refuse her.

Unfortunately, Yan Yan knew too well what was under the surface of her appearance. If she took anything out, Yan Ling would definitely put on a show of being reluctant to part with it, acting cute and saying how she really liked it. Yan Yan had been tricked too many times, and no longer fell for this act.

But Yan Yan thought it a little strange. Normally they would go flatter her mom. Why did they come here today? Yan Yan didn’t know that the two had actually gone to the Jinse Pavilion prior to this, but Shen Yi Yao didn’t meet with them, saying she wasn’t feeling well. She said since they were looking for the third miss, they can go straight to the Ningxiang Chambers.

“There isn’t anything fun. It’s just some cloth and jewelry. We’re already grown up. What use do we have for fun playthings?”

Yan Yan’s expression was very dull and looked clearly unhappy.

Yan Ling glanced at Yan Ru. She had told her they shouldn’t come to the Ningxiang Chambers. This Yan Yan had never been easy to deal with. It was easier to take advantage via second aunt. Yan Ru naturally understood this, but since second aunt wasn’t feeling well, she couldn’t just return empty handed and thus came to the Ningxiang Chambers.

“Third little sis’s grandparents really cherish her.” Yan Ru said enviously. Why didn’t she have such a powerful grandfather who cherished her!?

The eldest madam Xue-shi didn’t have an impressive family background. Her household was a sixth-rank minor official’s, and they were a dime a dozen in the capital. There weren’t any benefits to speak of, and the official’s salary wasn’t even enough for his own household, let alone his married daughter. It was already good of them not to ask Xue-shi for support.

Yan Yan let out an inaudible “en”. It seemed these two wouldn’t be leaving for a while. Although her temper wasn’t good, she also wasn’t so unreasonable as to kick her household’s sisters out. She could only sit there and drily accompany them.

The air was a little frozen. Mei Xiang saw the miss’s expression turning uglier and uglier, and quietly took her leave.

Before long, a maid came over to report. After she left, more maids came one after the other.

At this time, Yan Yan said: “Eldest sis, fourth sis, as you can see I’ve just returned. We’ve switched out a lot of people in the courtyard and I have a lot to take care of. I won’t accompany any longer.”

Yan Ru and Yan Ling could only stand up and say their farewells. They walked out of the doors with unwilling expressions.

“Peh, a lot to take care of? Pretending to be an adult.”

Yan Ling heard Yan Ru grumbling and didn’t speak.

After the two left, Yan Yan said: “Mei Xiang, luckily you were perceptive. If they stayed any longer I was going to lose it.”

Mei Xiang laughed, “I knew miss couldn’t endure much longer.”

Actually Yan Yan wasn’t impatient. She’s just always hated those with ulterior motives. Her personality was straightforward and she was direct in her actions. If they wanted something, they should just say it. If her mood was good she didn’t mind sharing with others. But beating about the bush like this made one feel extremely annoyed. Especially since this wasn’t their first or second time doing so.

Mei Xue frowned and said: “That eldest miss and fourth miss is really something. Why doesn’t the eldest madam do anything about them?”

Yan Yan revealed a mocking smile and laughed sarcastically, “This is precisely her doing.”

Mei Xue nodded and agreed in her mind. This was definitely instigated by the grownups.

Yi Yun and Yi Meng didn’t quite understand. Mei Xiang thought about how they had to work together in the future and decided it was better for them to understand the situation. She took the two along to give them an “explanation”.

However, Yan Yan knew this matter wasn’t finished. Xue-shi had always been someone with many schemes, and there was also the old madam who didn’t mind frustrating others.

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