At the Ningxiang Chambers.
Yan Yan didn’t appear any different from normal. She walked around the garden with Yan Mo for half an hour before the two returned to the house.
Yan Mo first drank a bowl of hot concentrated ginger soup sweetened with brown sugar. After he started sweating, he was carried by Matron Dong into a large tub of light brown bathwater to soak. After soaking for Lady Hui’s allotted time of half an hour, the water was changed to clear bathwater and he was cleaned up. He was changed into a set of soft innerwear and placed into a soft bed.
At this point, Yan Mo was already extremely tired. He fell deeply asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.
Yan Yan came to check up on Yan Mo and ordered the maids to pay closer attention during the night before returning to her own room.
She felt a little uneasy. In the past she would have finished bathing and started meditating on her bed at this hour. However, she wasn’t currently in the mood. Lady Hui had said that one shouldn’t train if the mind was elsewhere. Otherwise it’s easy to take a wrong turn.
She paced around in her room for a few steps before saying she was going to the rear little courtyard.
Seeing this, Mei Xiang and the other maids didn’t dare follow.
The third miss didn’t allow the maids to be by her side while she was training. Yan Yan was protective and kind towards her servants, and didn’t put on airs. However, she had always been extremely opinionated, and had an imposing aura even if she wasn’t angry. Although she wasn’t that old, the maids around her all felt a sense of reverence towards her.
There was a small square stone table in the courtyard, with four stone benches on every side. Yan Yan wasn’t training martial arts as the maids had guessed. She merely sat on the stone bench while spinning an Emei piercer rapidly in her hand. Her expression was a little anxious.
Lady Hui appeared by her side. She lived in the only wing within this little courtyard. She had sensed it the moment Yan Yan entered. Coming out of her door, she saw the third miss’s pensive expression. Yan Yan hadn’t even noticed her approach.
Lady Hui took a seat at the table and said softly: “Is there something on miss’s mind?”
Yan Yan glanced at her and nodded.
“Is it about the madam?”
Lady Hui wasn’t a fool. Although she didn’t have much of a presence at the Ningxiang Chambers and rarely appeared in front of others, she knew everything that goes on in this pavilion. Sometimes it wasn’t a good thing to have sharp ears. Hearing too much would make one think too much and start worrying.
Ignorance is bliss. This saying wasn’t wrong.
“My dad has returned. My mom, she….”
Lady Hui smiled. “Miss is a little at a loss?”
Yan Yan froze and slowly nodded.
“It’s normal for miss to feel this way. Since you are at a loss, then don’t do anything and silently observe. Miss is still young at the moment. Let grownups worry about grownup affairs.”
“But——” Yan Yan also didn’t know what she should say, just like her complicated emotions.
Lady Hui raised her eyebrows and smiled. She gazed at the half-moon in the sky and said lightly: “Actually, Lady Hui wasn’t used to things when she first came to miss’s side. I’m part of the martial world, and experienced a lifetime of bloodshed for the sake of earning a living. Coming to a wealthy household and seeing this place full of extravagance and extreme wealth, without any worries, was unimaginable.”
Yan Yan listened silently.
“At first it felt weird. The gap between people’s lives is truly too vast. But after some time, I realized everywhere has its troubles. How can paradise truly exist in this world?! The people here conduct themselves far too differently from my previous circle. In the past, we would take drastic actions without saying a single word. The clean blade goes in and comes out bloodied. Debts of gratitude and vengeance are swiftly settled. Here, a single phrase can have dozens of twists. Every word is filled with hidden purpose.”
“Is this why Lady Hui wasn’t willing to speak at first?”
Lady Hui smiled. “Perhaps. I was at a loss back then and didn’t know what my path would be like in the future. I didn’t feel like speaking and also didn’t know what to say. After staying for a while, and living here for a while, I ended up not wanting to speak.”
At that time, Lady Hui lived with Yan Yan at the Jinse Pavilion. Her surroundings were completely different from what she was used to. This was completely at odds with Lady Hui, who was a woman who had grown up in the countryside. Especially since the maids and grannies shunned her when they heard she was here to teach the third miss martial arts since they felt she was weird. Lady Hui never said anything, and only appeared when Yan Yan needed her. Otherwise, she never went out.
At that time, Shen Yi Yao was very dissatisfied about Yan Yan learning martial arts, but for some reason still indulged her. Despite scolding Yan Yan for not being ladylike at home, she would smile and praise her talents for martial arts in front of the Zhenguo Duke.
At that time Yan Yan hadn’t understood. Afterwards, she slowly started to understand. When one grew older, they would face all sorts of problems and helpless situations. Just what on earth made the simpleminded Shen Yi Yao say one thing and mean another?
This was when Yan Yan first started having misgivings about her own father.
Seeing him return today and still easily affect her mom’s emotions, Yan Yan felt extremely complicated. Despite all the plans being laid out, despite things already being set in motion, and despite it being her who opened this Pandora’s box, she had actually started to feel conflicted.
“Miss is feeling confused and conflicted?”
Yan Yan didn’t speak.
“Then, do you still remember your initial purpose?”
Purpose? She didn’t have any purpose at the time. She just felt this couldn’t be tolerated and endured. The only purpose to speak of was to properly protect Ah Mo and allow him to grow up….
“Then, do you still regret your actions?”
She did not.
She shook her head firmly.
“Then, isn’t everything fine?”
That’s right. Wasn’t everything fine? Why did she have to overthink things? She just had to protect Ah Mo properly. She didn’t have to worry about anything else. Her grandfather had also told her this.
At that time she had understood his meaning, and had always understood. It’s just that when push came to shove, seeing her mom’s attitude change abruptly made her feel worried.
After a long while, Yan Yan relaxed her heart and revealed a smile.
She gripped the Emei piercers in her hand and stood up.
“Lady Hui, this technique feels a little shaky. Can you take a look at it?”
Lady Hui smiled slightly and nodded.
The faint light of dawn scattered through the window, faintly lighting up the dark room.
Shen Yi Yao gradually awoke and saw her husband looking at her gently.
Recalling last night, her face turned faintly red. “Husband.”
Yan Ting patted her and sat up. His well-built upper-body had a layer of innerwear draped over it. His shirt was half-opened, revealing a slender, muscular chest. He lifted the bell from the table beside the bed and gave it a shake. Immediately, some maids entered the room.
The maids split into two groups. One helped Yan Ting wash up and change while the other served Shen Yi Yao. Shen Yi Yao sat in front of the makeup counter and looked in the mirror at her husband who was changing. Her face blushed slightly and revealed a sweet smile.
“What are you smiling about?”
Shen Yi Yao was snapped out of her daze. She was a little embarrassed, “Nothing, nothing….”
Yan Ting laughed brightly and patted her delicate back, saying: “Hurry and change. We’ll go pay respects to mom in a bit.”
Although they had been married for ten years, Shen Yi Yao still had a shy personality. After letting the maids help her change and comb her hair, Fang Cao opened her jewelry box. She picked out a headdress and went to help put it on. Before she could do so, it was grabbed by Yan Ting who helped Shen Yi Yao put it on.
These actions made Shen Yi Yao turn red. Yan Ting teased her for being so shy despite already having given birth to children.
As he spoke, someone reported the arrival of Concubine Pei and Concubine Wu, and their misses and young master, who were here to pay respects to the madam and the marquis. The two walked out holding hands.
Concubine Pei was dressed up especially beautifully today. She wore a sunset red jacket with honey colored sleeves, making her skin look fair and her appearance gentle and moving. Yan Hong and Yan Qian stood beside her obediently. Especially Yan Hong, who was no longer his usual unbridled self.
Concubine Wu was someone who spoke little and didn’t have much of a presence. She had an oval face, almond eyes and cherry lips. Her eyes were pretty and she wore a light blue silk jacket embroidered with magnolia branches. A string of pearls adorned the lilac silk belt around her slender waist. The fifth miss Yan Chan was also someone without much of a presence, just like her concubine mother. She had her mother’s appearance and looked a little timid.
The few people stepped up and paid respects before taking a seat below.
Yan Ting looked around and said: “Why didn’t Ah Yan and Ah Mo come?”
Shen Yi Yao was just struggling over how to say it when Fang Cao smiled and said: “The third miss practices martial arts every day. Sometimes when the timing isn’t convenient, she won’t stop by the Jinse Pavilion and goes directly to the Rongan Hall to pay respects to the old madam. She never misses the paying of respects. The fourth young master’s health isn’t good. He’s frail and sleeps often. The madam sympathizes with him and doesn’t force him to come to the Jinse Pavilion to pay respects.”
This could be counted as an explanation for Shen Yi Yao. She felt relieved. But, was this really an explanation?
Yan Ting half furrowed his brows, and looked a little displeased. “Ah Yan is still practicing martial arts?”
Shen Yi Yao nodded hesitantly and explained for her daughter: “Ah Yan doesn’t practice often anymore, only occasionally. After all, she has trained for so many years so it’s not easy to discard right away. Your wife will instruct her properly.”
Yan Ting said: “Ah Yan isn’t young anymore. The topic of marriage will come up in a few years. It’s better for a girl to be more elegant.”
Shen Yi Yao nodded her head.
Right as they were speaking, Yan Yan arrived with Yan Mo.
The two stepped up to pay respects. Yan Yan’s gaze was withdrawn: “Hopefully dad and mom won’t blame your daughter and son for being late.”
“Not late, not late. Dad and mom got up early today.”
Yan Yan gave Shen Yi Yao a glance and didn’t speak. Yan Ting also didn’t reveal any abnormal expression. He stood up and turned to lightly hold Shen Yi Yao. The couple took the people from the second branch towards the Rongan Hall.
Today the Rongan Hall was especially lively. Everyone from all three branches had come. They were all full of smiles and got along extremely well. The grownups sat together and made small talk. After the younger generation paid respects, they went and sat in the adjacent side room.
The two young masters from the eldest branch were present: the eldest young master Yan Xiao and the second young master Yan Rui. They were older than Yan Mo by a bit. One was thirteen and the other twelve. Yan Xiao resembled his father. He was round and chubby. Yan Rui resembled Xue-shi and was thin and small. The two normally focused on their studies and rarely made an appearance. They didn’t enjoy playing with the younger Yan Mo and Yan Hong much.
The two sat together. One appeared drowsy as though he hadn’t slept well. The other sat there looking around in boredom, though it wasn’t clear what he was looking at.
Yan Ru, Yan Ling and Yan Qian sat together on the large kiln. The third branch’s sixth and seventh miss sat together on the side. They were accompanied by their wet nurses and didn’t join the others. Yan Yan sat in one of the stools and Yan Mo sat next to her. Yan Hong was left out, so he ran over to the kiln and joined Yan Qian’s group.
He was mischievous in nature and soon made Yan Ru’s face turn red in anger. She seemed to want to hit him, yet cared about her own image.
“Yan Qian, control your little brother. He’s so hateful.”
Yan Qian cast a glance at Yan Hong and twisted her little mouth. “I can’t control him anymore. He’s been spoiled by my concubine mother. He even dares to hit me now.”
“If you continue being annoying, I’ll go tell grandmother on you and have her ruthlessly punish you!” Yan Ru said while squeezing her handkerchief.
Yan Hong made a face at her and stuck out his tongue. “I’m not scared, I’m not scared. Grandmother definitely won’t punish me. Don’t you like acting elegant all the time? Why aren’t you acting anymore?”
This little brat was truly annoying. Yan Ru’s face turned red and she gritted her teeth. Her gaze fell upon Yan Mo and Yan Yan, and she said: “You’re a boy, why are you hanging out with us girls? Go play with Yan Mo. You two brothers get along really well.”
This was a perfect example of trying to shift a calamity to the east. Unfortunately, Yan Hong didn’t fall for it, or perhaps he didn’t dare fall for it.
He glanced at Yan Yan who was next to Yan Mo and lowered his voice quite a bit as he sneered, “I wouldn’t want to play with him!”
Yan Ru’s interest was aroused. “Why? Afraid Yan Yan will bully you?”
Yan Hong looked disdainful. “Can she bully me?”
“Then why don’t you play with him. You all have the same father, right? You’re both second uncle’s sons.”
Yan Hong was easily stirred up after all. He looked resentfully at Yan Mo.
Yan Yan had been sitting with a dull expression. Seeing Yan Hong look over, she stared at him with a sharp gaze before looking towards Yan Ru. “Eldest sis, did you eat too much for breakfast?”
Yan Ru wasn’t quite able to react. “I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.”
Yan Qian snorted. Yan Yan spoked again: “I thought you were full since you look bloated.”
Yan Ru turned red and glared at Yan Yan. She wanted to speak but wasn’t able to out of anger. At this time, some maids came to report that breakfast was ready, and invited the misses and young masters to go eat.
Yan Ru could only walk away furiously. Actually, she didn’t really dare provoke Yan Yan. The matters being stirred up in the second branch recently had made her fear Yan Yan even more. Furthermore, her mom had also said not to provoke the third miss for no reason.
The younger generation was split into several tables for breakfast in the reception hall. Then, they each went their separate ways.
Yan Ting went to the front courtyard after leaving the Rongan Hall, seemingly busy with some matter. Yan Yan took Yan Mo towards the second branch’s residences along with Shen Yi Yao and Concubine Pei’s group.
After reaching the Jinse Pavilion, Shen Yi Yao called Yan Yan over and said she wanted to speak with her.
Yan Yan thought about it and had Mei Xiang and Matron Qin bring Yan Mo back to the Ningxiang Chambers first. She herself followed Shen Yi Yao into the Jinse Pavilion.
Ever since that day, the relationship between mother and daughter had been strained. They rarely spoke, and Shen Yi Yao suddenly didn’t know how to start the conversation.
She pondered over and over, her expression a little cramped: “You’re not young anymore. The matter of marriage will be raised in a few years. Then, then it’s better not to train anymore.”
Yan Yan’s eyes flashed and she didn’t respond.
Her mom had spoken these words to her at least ten times. When she was young, she had assumed her mom didn’t like it. But afterwards, she understood there were other reasons.
Yan Yan gave Shen Yi Yao a glance, her eyes obscure: “Don’t forget, you were the one who allowed me to learn initially. Why did you change your mind?”
Shen Yi Yao’s face turned pale, her expression revealing some pain. “Ah Yan—–”
Yan Yan didn’t look at her. She currently felt extremely sullen. She wanted to speak, but also didn’t know where to start. She could only turn and walk out.
Just what was wrong with this world? Sometimes, she truly didn’t understand!
It’s normal for Yan Yan to feel conflicted when push comes to shove. She isn’t conflicted about bullying her scummy dad, but rather because her mom’s attitude changed after her dad returned. Of course, since it’s her own dad, she’ll also feel at a loss to some extent. Not sure if any readers realized the profound reasons behind Yan Yan learning martial arts. I believe everyone can understand. You’re all so smart.